Vito Stellino's analysis of team-by-team needs

THE BALTIMORE SUN

AFC East

Buffalo Bills

1995 record: 10-6 (won division)

First-round pick: No. 24

Total selections: 10

Outlook: The Bills are trying the difficult trick of overhauling an aging team while drafting late every year. They would like to grab a wide receiver on the first round because it's such a good draft for receivers. Their other priorities are offensive tackle and safety.

Indianapolis Colts

1995 record: 9-7 (wild-card berth)

First-round pick: No. 19

Total selections: 8

Outlook: Priorities are likely to be cornerbacks, offensive and defensive linemen and wide receivers. They're looking for a cornerback after losing Ashley Ambrose in free agency. They need offensive-line help because Will Wolford was lost in free agency.

Miami Dolphins

1995 record: 9-7 (wild-card berth)

First-round pick: No. 20

Total selections: 8

Outlook: He's tanned, he's rested, he's ready, he's a legend in his own mind and he's got a new hair commercial. After a two-year sabbatical, Jimmy Johnson will try to work the same magic in Miami that he did in Dallas. He needs help on defense after losing Marco Coleman, Troy Vincent and Bryan Cox. Johnson says he'll draft what he calls "special players" regardless of position, and don't be surprised if he makes a few deals.

New England Patriots

1995 record: 6-10

First-round pick: No. 7

Total selections: 8

Outlook: The Patriots could use a big-time receiver to complement tight end Ben Coates. But don't be surprised if they pass a wide receiver on the first round because Bill Parcells is a defensive coach with a defense that ranked 28th last year. He may gamble on defensive lineman Daryl Gardener, though he was an underachiever.

New York Jets

1995 record: 3-13

First-round pick: No. 1

Total selections: 6

Outlook: It's difficult to try to figure out what coach Rich Kotite is going to do. Last year, he made tight end Kyle Brady a surprise ninth pick. There isn't one standout player in the draft, so the Jets would like to trade down and get two first-rounders. The Rams have said no, but Kotite still hopes the Ravens will go for it. If not, he'll choose between Keyshawn Johnson and Kevin Hardy as the top pick.

AFC Central

Baltimore Ravens

1995 record: 5-11

First-round pick: Nos. 4 and 26

Total selections: 10

Outlook: The Ravens will provide a lot of opportunity for their draft picks. Sixteen players have departed or been released since the end of last season and the club has added only two, so it needs depth. The major need is at running back; Leroy Hoard led the club with only 547 yards rushing last year. The Ravens appear ready to gamble on Lawrence Phillips.

Cincinnati Bengals

1995 record: 7-9

First-round pick: No. 10

Total selections: 7

Outlook: The Bengals have, in effect, two first-round picks. Running back Ki-Jana Carter, who sat out last year with a knee injury, is scheduled back for what amounts to his rookie season. Now, they would like to give him an offensive tackle to run behind. Willie Anderson is their first choice.

Houston Oilers

1995 record: 7-9

First-round pick: No. 9

Total selections: 7

Outlook: A running back and a pass rusher are their top two priorities. A pass rusher would be an asset, because the team had just 30 sacks last year. The Oilers figure to take running back Eddie George in the first round.

Jacksonville Jaguars

1995 record: 4-12

First-round pick: No. 2

Total selections: 11

Outlook: The Jaguars face a quandary with the second pick in the draft. They're not sure there's a player worth taking there, and would be willing to trade down. One of the candidates may be the Ravens, who could move up to get Phillips. If they stay No. 2, the Jaguars figure to wind up with Keyshawn Johnson or Kevin Hardy.

Pittsburgh Steelers

1995 record: 11-5 (won division, lost in Super Bowl)

First-round pick: No. 29

Total selections: 10

Outlook: With Bam Morris' future in doubt because of his arrest on a drug charge, the Steelers' major need is a running back. Erric Pegram can't carry the load himself. The Steelers could attempt to trade up to get a better runner. Despite the loss of Neil O'Donnell, they don't seem to rate quarterback a major priority. They're willing to go with their trio of Jim Miller/Mike Tomczak. OK, that's just two names, but the slash is Kordell Stewart, who wants to prove he's more quarterback than all-purpose player.

AFC West

Denver Broncos

1995 record: 8-8

First-round pick: No. 15

Total selections: 8

Outlook: The Broncos could go in either direction. They could trade up for a pass rusher or trade down to stockpile picks if they can't get one at this spot. In any case, the Broncos want defense. In the sixth or seventh rounds, coach Mike Shanahan plans to select a quarterback to start grooming for the future. One of the candidates is Maryland's Scott Milanovich.

Kansas City Chiefs

1995 record: 13-3 (won division)

First-round pick: No. 28

Total selections: 11

Outlook: Except for a place-kicker, the Chiefs think they have a Super Bowl team -- though they have lost their first-round playoff game four times in the past six years. They're interested in a pass-catching tight end and depth in the defensive line and at wide receiver, defensive back and quarterback.

Oakland Raiders

1995 record: 8-8

First-round pick: No. 17

Total selections: 10

Outlook: The Raiders tried to go away from Al Davis' long passing game last year, and Davis wasn't pleased when the team fell apart. Davis went for defense in free agency, overpaying former Cowboys Russell Maryland and Larry Brown. It's now time for offense in the draft, with offensive tackle and tight end the top priorities.

San Diego Chargers

1995 record: 9-7 (wild-card berth)

First-round pick: None

Total selections: 6

Outlook: General manager Bobby Beathard and coach Bobby Ross got fed up with the team's underachieving attitude last year after its Super Bowl success in 1994. They dumped running back Natrone Means and defensive lineman Leslie O'Neal. As usual, Beathard has traded away his first-round pick, but look for some wheeling-and-dealing in the draft. Priorities will be wide receiver, tight end, fullback and linebacker.

Seattle Seahawks

1995 record: 8-8

First-round pick: No. 14

Total selections: 9

Outlook: The Seahawks are looking at defensive and offensive linemen and cornerbacks. Cornerback Alex Molden is probably at the top of their wish list. They also need a pass rusher to team with Cortez Kennedy and more blocking for Rick Mirer, who has yet to develop into the quarterback he was supposed to be when he was drafted.

NFC East

Arizona Cardinals

1995 record: 4-12

First-round pick: No. 3

Total selections: 7

Outlook: If Keyshawn Johnson and Kevin Hardy go 1-2, they don't want Lawrence Phillips and don't have a pressing need for Jonathan Ogden after signing left tackle Lomas Brown as a free agent. If the Rams want Phillips, The Cardinals could trade down three spots and take a running back in the sixth slot. Or they could stay at No. 3 and take Ogden on the best-available-athlete theory.

Dallas Cowboys

1995 record: 12-4 (won division and Super Bowl)

First-round pick: No. 30

Total selections: 9

Outlook: Don't be surprised if they trade out of the first round. There's usually about a $400,000 difference between a first-rounder and a high second-rounder, and often not much difference in talent. Or they could negotiate with a player's agent while the team is on the clock if the agent is willing to take second-round money for the honor of being a first-round pick. Major needs are on defense after losing four starters to free agency.

New York Giants

1995 record: 5-11

First-round pick: No. 5

Total selections: 8

Outlook: The Giants' major need is at quarterback. The problem is that there aren't any franchise quarterbacks in this draft and it's unlikely the team would admit it needed one. On the first round, the Giants figure to take an impact defensive player (possibly Simeon Rice) or a wide receiver (Terry Glenn or Marvin Harrison).

Philadelphia Eagles

1995 record: 10-6 (wild-card berth)

First-round pick: No. 25

Total selections: 9

Outlook: They've got to improve a passing game that ranked 29th last year. They'll go for a tight end and a wide receiver, and also need a linebacker after losing Bill Romanowski and Kurt Gouveia in free agency and a defensive tackle.

Washington Redskins

1995 record: 6-10

First-round pick: None.

Total selections: 7

Outlook: Charley Casserly stole a page from the "Future Is Now" book of his mentor, George Allen, when he traded this year's first-round pick to the Rams for Sean Gilbert. Gilbert should help a defense that was 29th against the run last year. The Redskins still could use a pass-rushing end, a tight end, an offensive lineman and a running back.

NFC Central

Chicago Bears

1995 record: 9-7

First-round pick: No. 18

Total selections: 9

Outlook: The team made a major move to strengthen its defense by signing Bryan Cox and matching the offer for Alonzo Spellman. But the Bears would like to upgrade even more after finishing 19th in yards allowed and 27th against the pass. The Bears figure to take a cornerback with their first pick, with Walt Harris the top candidate if Alex Molden is gone. They're also interested in an offensive tackle, linebacker, tight end and wide receiver.

Detroit Lions

1995 record: 10-6 (wild-card berth)

First-round picks: Nos. 21 and 23

Total selections: 8

Outlook: Coach Wayne Fontes escaped the pink slip last year when his team rallied to make the playoffs. This season, Fontes may have to win in the playoffs to survive. The club will be looking for help in the offensive line and at safety and depth at receiver and tight end.

Green Bay Packers

1995 record: 11-5 (won division)

First-round pick: No. 27

Total selections: 8

Outlook: The Packers' window of opportunity may be closing because Reggie White is in the last year of his contract at age 34. Although they have toyed with the idea of giving up several draft picks for Eric Swann of Arizona, they decided the price is too high and will go for depth in the draft. They'll be looking for a linebacker, an offensive lineman and a receiver.

Minnesota Vikings

1995 record: 8-8

First-round pick: No. 16

Total selections: 7

Outlook: The Vikings must improve a defense that ranked 20th in yardage allowed and 28th against the pass. They want to improve their defensive line, which lost Chris Doleman, Henry Thomas and Roy Barker the past three years. Rookie defensive lineman Derrick Alexander was disappointing last year, so they figure to try again. They may draft a quarterback because Warren Moon is 39.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

1995 record: 7-9

First-round picks: Nos. 12 and 22

Total selections: 10

Outlook: With four of the first 41 picks, the Bucs could move toward respectability. The Bucs' first goal is to get a pass-rushing end. They also could use help at fullback and cornerback and in the offensive line.

NFC West

Atlanta Falcons

1995 record: 9-7 (wild-card berth)

First-round pick: None

Total selections: 5

Outlook: By winning their ninth game, they had to give up their first-round pick instead of their second to Indianapolis as their final payment in the Jeff George trade. That will hinder Atlanta's shot at an impact defensive player for a team that finished 29th in yardage allowed last year. The Falcons will focus on defense first, then receivers.

Carolina Panthers

1995 record: 7-9

First-round pick: No. 8

Total selections: 12

Outlook: The Panthers' first goal is to get a dominant pass rusher, even though last year's unit tied for seventh in yardage allowed. If the top rushers are gone at No. 8, Carolina likely will switch to offense. It's set at quarterback with Kerry Collins, but has to get him some better weapons at running back and wide receiver.

New Orleans Saints

1995 record: 7-9

First-round pick: No. 11

Total selections: 10

Outlook: The Saints are focusing on defense, even after they signed free agents Mark McMillian, Darren Mickel and Fred Stokes. They'll try to trade down if they can't find a defensive player they like in the first round. They also want to get a receiver to replace Quinn Early.

St. Louis Rams

1995 record: 7-9

First-round picks: Nos. 6 and 13

Total selections: 8

Outlook: The Rams' top priority is a running back, because Jerome Bettis has been disappointing. If the Ravens don't trade up to get Lawrence Phillips with one of the first two picks, the Rams will try to move up three spots and swap with Arizona to take him with the third spot. If not, they'll stay at the sixth slot and take another running back, probably Tim Biakabutuka. They're also looking for a wide receiver, offensive lineman and linebacker.

San Francisco 49ers

1995 record: 11-5 (won division)

First-round pick: None

Total selections: 8

Outlook: The 49ers traded their 1996 first-round pick during last year's draft to the Browns for the 10th spot to select J. J. Stokes. Giving up that pick will make it more difficult for the 49ers to solve their most pressing need: a running back. The 49ers also need help at tight end and cornerback.

Pub Date: 4/14/96

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