NBA Playoff Capsules

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Russell Westbrook scored 32 points in a triple-double, and the Oklahoma City Thunder held off the Houston Rockets 115-113 on Friday night to cut their deficit to 2-1 in the first-round Western Conference playoff series.

 

  • Written by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

NHL Playoff Capsules

OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) — Sean Kuraly's second goal of the game at 10:19 of the second overtime gave the Boston Bruins a 3-2 win over the Ottawa Senators in Game 5 on Friday night, avoiding elimination in the first-round series.

 

  • Written by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Baseball Capsules

BALTIMORE (AP) — Dylan Bundy took a five-hitter into the eighth inning, Manny Machado homered and the surging Baltimore Orioles beat the Boston Red Sox 2-0 Friday night.

  • Written by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

NFL draft capsules

NFL draft capsules for AFC teams

 

1, 12. CLEVELAND BROWNS (1-15)

LAST SEASON: Following 0-14 start under first-year coach Hue Jackson, Browns barely avoided becoming only second team to lose all 16 games. Owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam vowed to be patient with new front office and coaching staff and were mostly true to word as team underwent minimal offseason changes. Cleveland's biggest issue remains as it has been for 15 years, no long-term answer at quarterback. Defense isn't much better, ranking 31st overall and lacking impact players. Fan base is disillusioned with front office's plan.

THEY NEED: QB, DL, S, WRs.

THEY DON'T NEED: Another blown draft.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: DE/LB Myles Garrett, Texas A&M.

OUTLOOK: By shrewdly stockpiling assets, Browns control top of draft with two first-round picks and five in top 65. Cleveland is desperate to find franchise quarterback, but this might not be year to reach for one with early pick or by trading up. Unless they are blown away by deal, Garrett appears to be lock. There's strong interest in North Carolina QB Mitchell Trubisky, local kid who could slip to 12 if he gets past Jets at No. 6. Browns have assets to be active, but more prudent approach this time would be to focus on picking quality players. Browns loaded up on offensive linemen in free agency to better protect passer. QB Brock Osweiler, acquired in trade at opening of free agency from Houston, could be dealt if team takes quarterback in early rounds.

4. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (3-13)

LAST SEASON: Finished with double-digit losses for sixth consecutive year and ended one of worst coaching tenures in NFL history by firing Gus Bradley with two games remaining. Jaguars hired interim coach Doug Marrone in January and brought back Tom Coughlin to oversee every aspect of football operations. Marrone, Coughlin and GM Dave Caldwell all got three-year contracts, a clear indication owner Shad Khan believes team is close to competing for playoff berth.

THEY NEED: RB, TE, OL, DL.

THEY DON'T NEED: CB, LB.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: RB Leonard Fournette, LSU; DE Jonathan Allen, Alabama; DE Solomon Thomas, Stanford.

OUTLOOK: Coughlin has final say in draft, and 70-year-old executive is expected to make bold picks that will help right away. Coughlin wants to fortify both lines of scrimmage and improve running game, which he believes will benefit embattled QB Blake Bortles. So Fournette makes sense. Jaguars whiffed repeatedly (DE Derrick Harvey, OT Eugene Monroe, DL Tyson Alualu, QB Blaine Gabbert, WR Justin Blackmon, OT Luke Joeckel, maybe Bortles, maybe DE Dante Fowler) while picking in top 10 in each of last nine years. But they hit on cornerback Jalen Ramsey with fifth overall pick in 2016 and hope to find similar success. Having added DE Calais Campbell, CB A.J. Bouye and SS Barry Church in free agency, Jacksonville appears poised to address offensive needs in draft.

5, 18. TENNESSEE TITANS (9-7)

LAST SEASON: In Mike Mularkey's first full season as coach, Titans tripled win total and just missed first AFC South title since 2008. Marcus Mariota proved he was no one-year wonder with sixth-highest passer rating for quarterback in first two seasons. His 95.6 passer rating was third best in franchise history. With Pro Bowl running back DeMarco Murray, Titans ranked 11th in total offense and led NFL at scoring touchdowns inside 20. Yet, first-year coordinator Dick LeBeau couldn't cover up poor secondary enough as Titans ranked 30th against pass. Titans also couldn't overcome 2-4 record inside division.

THEY NEED: CB, WR, TE, S, LB.

THEY DON'T NEED: QB, RB, LT, RT.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICKS: S Jamal Adams, LSU; LB Reuben Foster, Alabama; S Malik Hooker, Ohio State; WR Corey Davis, W. Michigan; TE O.J. Howard, Alabama; WR Mike Williams, Clemson; WR John Ross, Washington.

OUTLOOK: Second-year general manager Jon Robinson made it very clear year ago by trading away No. 1 overall draft pick that he is open to dealing. That brought Titans fifth pick overall from Rams, and sliding down could allow him to get into second round, where Tennessee currently has no selections. Robinson already has bolstered secondary in free agency with CB Logan Ryan from New England, CB Demontre Hurst from Chicago, and S Johnathan Cyprien from Jacksonville. But CB Jason McCourty is gone from area that needs better depth and competition. Titans let WR Kendall Wright walk in free agency and need targets for Mariota. With Anthony Fasano leaving for Miami, Mularkey needs more tight ends.

6. NEW YORK JETS (5-11)

LAST SEASON: After promising first season under Todd Bowles in 2015 that ended win shy of playoffs at 10-6, Jets were mess last year, with poor quarterback play major reason. Ryan Fitzpatrick followed impressive 2015 season of team record 31 TD passes with brutal campaign in which he was benched twice and finished with 12 TDs and 17 INTs. He and Geno Smith are gone, Bryce Petty did little to establish himself in limited opportunity before shoulder injury ended season. As QBs struggled, passing game suffered as Brandon Marshall dealt with injuries and had fewest catches (59) since rookie season, and Eric Decker played only three games before shoulder injury. Stunning decline of Darrelle Revis led to extremely leaky secondary. Second-year DL Leonard Williams was one of team's few bright spots, making first Pro Bowl after leading team with seven sacks.

THEY NEED: CB, QB, TE, LB, RG, LT, S.

THEY DON'T NEED: LG, DE, LS.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State; QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson; RB Leonard Fournette, LSU; QB Mitchell Trubisky, North Carolina; QB Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech; S Malik Hooker, Ohio State; S Jamal Adams, LSU; TE O.J. Howard, Alabama.

OUTLOOK: With Jets in clear rebuilding mode and GM Mike Maccagnan looking toward future, Bowles in unenviable situation of coaching for present because of tenuous job situation, uncertain if he'll be back if New York endures another lost season — despite lack of experience on roster. With so many needs, Maccagnan has said covets more picks and Jets could trade out of No. 6 spot. Despite signing well-traveled veteran Josh McCown, Jets still could draft quarterback in early or middle rounds to compete with Petty, McCown and Christian Hackenberg in camp. Side note: No. 6 spot has been mixed bag lately for Jets. In 2015 they took Williams, who has looked promising. But previous sixth pick came in 2008, when they selected DE Vernon Gholston — largely regarded as one of franchise's biggest draft busts.

7. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (5-11)

LAST SEASON: Chargers have won only nine games in two seasons, and now must try to stand out in crowded and competitive Los Angeles market after leaving San Diego because voters refused to help fund new stadium. Coach Mike McCoy was fired and replaced with Anthony Lynn from Buffalo Bills. There were few bright spots in 2016, such as DE Joey Bosa winning Defensive Rookie of Year Award and RB Melvin Gordon rebounding from miserable rookie season. But there are still problems on offensive line, and stars such as WR Keenan Allen and CB Jason Verrett can't stay healthy.

THEY NEED: S, WR, DL, OL, QB

THEY DON'T NEED: TE, CB, K, P.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: S Malik Hooker, Ohio State; S Jamal Adams, LSU.

OUTLOOK: Noting that Rivers is getting "long in the tooth," Lynn said he'd like GM Tom Telesco to draft quarterback so he can learn under Rivers, who is under contract through 2019. "Philip is the ultimate pro in my opinion," Lynn said. "We have a good situation for a young quarterback that doesn't have to come in and play right now. He can sit, watch." Said Rivers: "We're going to at some point. I'm not going to be here forever. ... I certainly don't fear that day when that comes whatsoever. I don't take it as my role, 'Oh, we drafted a young guy, your eventual replacement so get him ready.' But at the same time I enjoy sharing both things I've learned and letting the young guy see how I've done things. At the same time, shoot, I'm always going to compete. All of us have to compete and never feel comfortable. Should this be the year there's a young guy in here, he'll come in here and be in what I would think would be a pretty good situation."

9. CINCINNATI BENGALS (6-9-1)

LAST SEASON: Bengals' run of five straight playoff appearances — and first-round losses — came to end. Offensive line struggled with Cedric Ogbuehi in first season at right tackle; he wound up benched for a while. Defense started showing some age, slipping to middle-of-pack status. Line suffered two significant hits in free agency when left tackle Andrew Whitworth and right guard Kevin Zeitler left. Bengals also declined to hold on to defensive tackle Domata Peko, but supported cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones after his latest arrest, which left him at risk of another suspension from NFL. Kicker job is open to competition.

THEY NEED: DE, LB, OT, OG, RB.

THEY DON'T NEED: QB, P, C.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: DE Jonathan Allen, Alabama; LB Reuben Foster, Alabama.

OUTLOOK: Coach Marvin Lewis is entering final year of contract — he and front office couldn't reach accommodation on extension. Bengals plan to let young, inexperienced players take on bigger roles, which implies some growing pains. Offensive line is most glaring concern, with Ogbuehi expected to move to left tackle after rough season on other side of line. With OL struggling, QB Andy Dalton was under pressure and running game never developed any consistency. Offense should be better with A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard back from significant injuries, assuming line can hold its own.

10. BUFFALO BILLS (7-9)

LAST SEASON: Rex Ryan's inability to build bully, particularly on defense, led to coach being fired in final week of second season. Behind LeSean McCoy, Buffalo led NFL in rushing for second consecutive year, but inconsistent and injury-depleted passing attack sputtered, contributing to franchise extending playoff drought to 17 seasons — longest active streak among North America's four major sports. Bills turned to detail-oriented Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott to take over as first-time head coach.

THEY NEED: CB, WR, LB.

THEY DON'T NEED: S, DE, OL.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: WR Mike Williams, Clemson; CB Gareon Conley, Ohio State; LB Reuben Foster, Alabama; QB Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech.

OUTLOOK: Pressure on GM Doug Whaley to deliver after spotty drafting history and questions whether he's had difficulty working with team's two previous coaches, Ryan and Doug Marrone. Whaley's public voice has been diminished with McDermott now mostly speaking on team-related issues, including draft. With only six picks, don't rule out Bills trading down to add selections. Though QB Tyrod Taylor returns for third season as starter, difficult to envision Bills being in position to contend immediately under fourth coach in six seasons and introducing yet another new system.

15. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (8-8)

LAST SEASON: Andrew Luck fought through injuries for second straight season and even though he finished schedule, Indy still missed playoffs. Team owner Jim Irsay's solution: fire general manager Ryan Grigson, hire Chris Ballard and focus more heavily on fixing defense. During coach Chuck Pagano's five-year tenure, Colts' defense has never been ranked in top half of NFL. Retirement of Robert Mathis, Colts' career sacks leader, won't help, either. But Colts' revamped offensive line showed signs of progress in last month of season.

THEY NEED: DE/OLB, CB, RB, G.

THEY DON'T NEED: C, K.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: LB Haason Reddick, Temple; LB Reuben Foster, Alabama; G Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky; OT Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin; DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee; CB Gareon Conley, Ohio State.

OUTLOOK: Ballard filled some holes by signing solid, mostly reasonably priced free agents. But Indy still needs defensive playmakers. Top priorities appear to be finding young, legitimate pass rusher and starting cornerback. That's not all. Among other needs, Ballard needs successor for soon to be 34-year-old running back Frank Gore, and possible backup for Luck, still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Colts should try to strengthen right side of offensive line and may add to linebacker group that already has four new faces. Deep defensive draft gives Ballard plenty of options, including trading back to collect more picks.

16. BALTIMORE RAVENS (8-8)

LAST SEASON: Baltimore won its first three games, then lost four straight and finished by dropping three of last four to miss playoffs for second year in row. Joe Flacco passed for career-high 4,317 yards but threw 15 interceptions and received little support from running game that ranked 28th. K Justin Tucker led team with 141 points, RB Terrance West was second with only 36. Defense ranked seventh but yielded 114 points over final four games, including 21 in fourth quarter of pivotal 31-27 loss to Steelers. Only six teams had fewer sacks than Ravens (31). Baltimore placed 18 players on injured reserve, including five CBs.

THEY NEED: CB, DE, WR, OT, C, FB.

THEY DON'T NEED: QB, TE, RB, S.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: WR Corey Davis, Western Michigan; WR John Ross, Washington; OT Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin; LB Charles Harris, Missouri; CB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama.

OUTLOOK: GM Ozzie Newsome has plenty of holes to fill, so he should have plenty of options with 16th overall pick. Retirement of Steve Smith leaves void at WR, but despite Newsome's keen eye for talent on draft day he's been off mark at that position with No. 1s (Travis Taylor, Mark Clayton, Breshad Perriman). Newsome fortified defensive backfield by signing free agents Brandon Carr and Tony Jefferson, but Ravens desperately need depth at CB because Jimmy Smith has had difficulty staying healthy. Release of LB Elvis Dumervil and advancing age of LB Terrell Suggs leaves Baltimore in dire need of someone who can hunt down quarterbacks.

20. DENVER BRONCOS (9-7)

LAST SEASON: For first time since John Elway returned as GM in 2011, Broncos failed to reach playoffs last season. He found himself conducting his third search for head coach after Gary Kubiak stepped down over health concerns just two years into job. Elway hired Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, who promoted secondary coach Joe Woods to replace D-coordinator Wade Phillips, and hired ex-Chargers head coach Mike McCoy to run offense. After dominating AFC West with five consecutive titles, Broncos slipped behind Chiefs and Raiders following Peyton Manning's retirement. DeMarcus Ware retired this year but Denver is still loaded on defense. They have to fix offense that was inept much of last season.

THEY NEED: OT, LB, CB, RB, TE, WR, KR.

THEY DON'T NEED: C, QB, K, P, G, S.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: S Jabrill Peppers, Michigan; LT Garett Bolles, Utah; LT Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin; RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford.

OUTLOOK: Elway whiffed on attempts to sign DT Earl Mitchell and DE Calais Campbell in free agency. But he did address run defense with additions of Domata Peko and Zach Kerr. On offense, he jettisoned LT Russell Okung and added some nastiness to O-line by signing free agents Ron Leary and Menelik Watson. Elway could land left tackle in first round but this draft is so deep on defense it wouldn't be surprising if he scraps plans and grabs another highly rated defender like when Bradley Roby and Shane Ray slipped down in previous drafts.

22. MIAMI DOLPHINS (10-7)

LAST SEASON: New coach Adam Gase led Miami to first playoff berth since 2008, but 35-14 loss to Patriots in regular-season finale and 30-12 first-round playoff loss at Pittsburgh showed Dolphins are still far from championship. Offense began to jell in October, but defense allowed franchise-record 6,122 yards, and draft emphasis will be to find help for new defensive coordinator Matt Burke. There's excellent core in middle with DT Ndamukong Suh and S Reshad Jones, but Dolphins are in dire need of defensive help on flanks. They had decent 2016 draft, first one with trio of Gase, vice president Mike Tannenbaum and general manager Chris Grier making decisions. Picks included top choice Laremy Tunsil, who looks to be anchor of OL for years to come. But to gain ground on Patriots, they'll need to do even better this time.

THEY NEED: CB, S, LB, DE, G, DT, C.

THEY DON'T NEED: QB, T, TE, RB, WR.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: DE Taco Charlton, Michigan; S Jabrill Peppers, Michigan; G Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky; LB Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt; CB Tre'Davious White, LSU; DT Malik McDowell, Michigan State.

OUTLOOK: Dolphins invested heavily in core this offseason. WR Kenny Stills and DE Andre Branch accepted offers to remain rather than test free agency, G Jermon Bushrod re-signed, and Jones signed $60 million, five-year extension. Miami acquired LB Lawrence Timmons, G Ted Larsen, TE Anthony Fasano and S Nate Allen via free agency, and added TE Julius Thomas and DE William Hayes in trades. With Tunsil moving from guard to left tackle to replace departed Branden Albert, Dolphins need help at guard, but otherwise they'll focus on defense in early rounds. They have only three of first 165 picks, compounding challenge of filling multitude of needs. But with good draft, Miami might even win playoff game for first time since 2000.

24. OAKLAND RAIDERS (12-5)

LAST SEASON: Raiders ended 13-year playoff drought behind strong play of QB Derek Carr and DE Khalil Mack. Broken leg for Carr in penultimate game of regular season cost Oakland chance at division title and sent Raiders home early with first-round playoff loss at Houston. But there was enough progress before that for team to build on heading into 2017.

THEY NEED: CB, LB, RB, DT.

THEY DON'T NEED: QB, OL.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: LB Jarrad Davis, Florida; LB Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt; CB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama.

OUTLOOK: GM Reggie McKenzie has been mostly quiet this offseason, with most notable additions being TE Jared Cook, OL Marshall Newhouse and WR-KR Cordarrelle Patterson. Raiders have done little to address deficiencies on defense, which will likely be focus in draft. Top need will be finding linebacker who can shore up run defense and not be exploited in coverage. Improving interior pass rush and finding slot cornerback also will be high priority. One big need on offense is at running back, where starter Latavius Murray left in free agency and has not been replaced.

25. HOUSTON TEXANS (10-8)

LAST SEASON: Houston overcame J.J. Watt missing most of season with back injury to go 9-7 and win weak AFC South for second straight year. Emergence of 2014 top overall pick Jadeveon Clowney helped ease loss of Watt and allow Houston to lead NFL in yards allowed. After getting blown out by Kansas City in wild-card round in 2016, Texans were ousted in divisional round by New England largely because of another ineffective performance by quarterback Brock Osweiler. Osweiler was inconsistent throughout first season in Houston and after season team decided $72 million investment was mistake and shipped him to Cleveland.

THEY NEED: QB, RT, S, CB.

THEY DON'T NEED: RB, DE, WR.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: QB Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech; QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson; QB Mitchell Trubisky, North Carolina; QB DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame; OL Cam Robinson, Alabama.

OUTLOOK: When Tony Romo chose broadcasting over another NFL season, it left Texans in desperate need of another quarterback to compete with Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden for starting job. Many of quarterbacks that would be good in system, like Mahomes and Watson, could be gone when they pick, so they'd have to trade up to snag one. Houston did not sign any outside free agents, lost starting cornerback A.J. Bouye and safety Quintin Demps, leaving team with need in secondary. Could also use reinforcements at right tackle with starter Derek Newton recovering from injuries to both knees and unlikely to be ready for opener.

27. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (12-5)

LAST SEASON: Chiefs won AFC West for first time since 2010, then were dumped by Pittsburgh in divisional round of playoffs. Coach Andy Reid and GM John Dorsey shelled out big money in offseason to keep SS Eric Berry and solidify other spots, but salary cap problems mean they will turn to draft to fill in rest of holes. Chiefs believe they have window to compete for Super Bowl in next couple years, so look for Reid and Dorsey to seek immediate help.

THEY NEED: RB, LB, WR, CB, OL, QB.

THEY DON'T NEED: TE, DL, FB, S.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: LB Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt; RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford; WR Zay Jones, East Carolina; QB Pat Mahomes, Texas Tech; CB Kevin King, Washington; LB Jarrad Davis, Florida.

OUTLOOK: Chiefs desperately need more playmakers after WR Jeremy Maclin underperformed last season. McCaffrey is ideal pass-catching RB for Reid's modified West Coast offense, while Jones would give Chiefs vertical threat they haven't had in years. But Chiefs also need potential replacement for LB Derrick Johnson, coming off second Achilles tendon surgery and nearing end of his career, though that may be available for Kansas City in later rounds. Dorsey and Reid have shown willingness to trade down, so that may be option if top targets are off board, but Chiefs have 10 selections and are prime candidates to move up this year.

30. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (13-6)

LAST SEASON: Steelers emerged from midseason malaise to rip off seven straight wins to capture AFC North for second time in three seasons and reach AFC championship. That surge was due in part to rapid maturation of rookies CB Artie Burns, S Sean Davis and DT Javon Hargrave, team's first three picks in 2016 draft. Pittsburgh's one-sided loss to New England in playoffs still much work to be done to break New England's hammerlock on AFC. Tom Brady shredded Pittsburgh secondary (384 yards, three TDs) while getting sacked just twice.

THEY NEED: OLB, ILB, CB, S, TE.

THEY DON'T NEED: OL, QB.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: ILB Jarrad Davis, Florida; CB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama; ILB Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt); OLB Takkarist McKinley (UCLA).

OUTLOOK: Steelers need to produce pressure off edge — James Harrison isn't going to play forever — and another big-time cornerback like Burns who isn't afraid to be matched up one on one with other team's top receiver. Upgrade at inside linebacker would help, too, after Lawrence Timmons left for Miami in free agency and New England outbid Steelers to hang on to Dont'a Hightower. They have eight picks in all, so finding depth lower in draft at running back and wide receiver shouldn't be issue. Talent that can make immediate impact like top three last year is must. While QB Ben Roethlisberger hinted at retirement in offseason, finding his eventual replacement isn't top priority when window to win with Roethlisberger is still open. If they take WR, it may be sign they don't feel Martavis Bryant is long-term solution. Bryant remains suspended for violating league's substance abuse policy, though he is eligible to seek reinstatement.

96. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (17-2)

LAST SEASON: Patriots won their second Super Bowl in three years, overcoming 25-point deficit in last 17 minutes to beat Atlanta. It was their 14th straight year with at least 10 wins and seventh in row with 12 or more. It also was eighth straight playoff appearance and 13th in 14 seasons. This was despite playing first four games without quarterback Tom Brady because of "Deflategate" suspension. Backup Jimmy Garoppolo was injured in second game, and third-stringer Jacoby Brissett started next two. They went 3-1 before Brady returned. Only game five-time Super Bowl champion lost was in Week 10 against Seattle in rematch of 2015 title game.

THEY NEED: To make decisions on whether to keep Garoppolo, RB LeGarrette Blount and CB Malcolm Butler; OL and DL help.

THEY DON'T NEED: QB, RB, WR, CB.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: No first- or second-round pick. OT Antonio Garcia, Troy; DT Elijah Qualls, Washington.

OUTLOOK: After sending No. 32 overall pick to New Orleans in trade for WR Brandin Cooks, and 64th overall pick to Carolina for Kony Early, acquiring TE Dwayne Allen in trade, and signing CB Stephon Gilmore as free agent and RB Mike Gillislee to offer sheet, defending Super Bowl champions can look at draft to build depth instead of plugging holes. Coach Bill Belichick likes it that way, anyway. Look for Patriots to trade Butler to New Orleans to get back No. 32 pick, then to trade down for more picks in later rounds when they can take complementary players and long-term projects. One of those could be another quarterback if Belichick decides to cash out on Garoppolo now rather than keep him around to sit while Brady continues to defy his age.


NFL draft capsules for NFC teams

2. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (2-14)

LAST SEASON: 49ers tied franchise record for losses, leading to organizational overhaul. Longtime GM Trent Baalke was fired, along with first-year coach Chip Kelly, and replaced by first-time GM John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan. Team struggled just about everywhere in 2016. Blaine Gabbert or Colin Kaepernick failed to provide strong quarterback play, Niners lacked any big-play receivers, defense set franchise worsts for most points, yards and yards rushing allowed in single season.

THEY NEED: QB, CB, WR, OL, pass rusher.

THEY DON'T NEED: RB.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State; DL Solomon Thomas, Stanford; S Jamal Adams, LSU.

OUTLOOK: Niners could go in any direction considering how many needs they have. Lynch was busy in free agency, but most acquisitions are placeholders rather than foundation pieces and shouldn't alter draft strategy. With Brian Hoyer in place, San Francisco doesn't need quarterback who can step right in as starter, will likely look for someone in first few rounds as future starter. Receiver also could be taken early, which would be change in strategy from Baalke's approach when team rarely took skill position players in first three rounds. Other most pressing needs are on defense, where pass rusher and cornerbacks are in short supply.

3. CHICAGO BEARS (3-13)

LAST SEASON: Coming off its worst season in decades, Bears finished with lowest win total in non-strike year since 1973 team went 3-11 and posted their most losses since 1969. Also missed playoffs for ninth time in 10 seasons and took big step back in Year 2 under coach John Fox and GM Ryan Pace. Steady stream of players going down, with 19 finishing season on injured reason, exposed lack of depth.

THEY NEED: S, CB, QB, DL, TE, WR.

THEY DON'T NEED: RB, RG, LG, C.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: S Jamal Adams, LSU; DE Jonathan Allen, Alabama; CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State; S Malik Hooker, Ohio State; QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson.

OUTLOOK: Pace did not pick QB in first two drafts even though he talked about taking one every year when he got job. That figures to change this time. Question is in which round. Signing Mike Glennon to replace Jay Cutler gives Bears leeway to wait rather than draft QB with No. 3 pick. Bears could take safety or edge rusher early to boost middle-of-road defense that ranked 27th against run. Chicago also figures to look for more help at WR given Alshon Jeffery's departure in free agency and Kevin White's inability to stay healthy his first two seasons. Same goes for TE with Zach Miller's long injury history.

8. CAROLINA PANTHERS (6-10)

LAST SEASON: Carolina failed to make playoffs one year after representing NFC in Super Bowl. Reasons included dramatic drop-off in production from 2015 MVP Cam Newton. Newton struggled behind unsettled offensive line; coach Ron Rivera suggested recently those hits took toll on QB's confidence. Panthers have addressed need at left tackle by adding free agent Matt Kalil, with hope that Michael Oher can return from concussion that cost him 13 games and slide over to play right tackle.

THEY NEED: RB, WR, DE, RT, TE.

THEY DON'T NEED: QB, CB, C, G.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford; RB Leonard Fournette, LSU; WR John Ross, Washington; TE O.J. Howard, Alabama; RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State; WR Mike Williams, Clemson; QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson.

OUTLOOK: Carolina made host of moves on first day of free agency, filling number of holes and freeing it up to take best available player. GM Dave Gettleman said he doesn't feel he has to draft for need like in 2016, when he selected cornerbacks with first three picks. Panthers could use more weapons for Newton, including young running back to take some pressure off him in passing game. Veteran RB Jonathan Stewart is back, but he's struggled with injuries; it's time Panthers address backfield. Gettleman loves "hog mollies" — his affectionate term for big offensive and defensive linemen — so wouldn't be surprise if he goes that direction. Wild card here could be Watson, especially with Newton battling back from shoulder surgery. Newton has served as mentor of sorts for Watson for years.

11. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (7-9)

LAST SEASON: New Orleans remained mired in mediocrity for third straight season for familiar reason: deficient defense. After ranking second to last in 2014 and 2015, unit improved only moderately in 2016 to 27th out of 32. Lack of depth was exposed by injuries of various severity to CBs P.J. Williams and Delvin Breaux; club's top 2016 draft choice, DT Sheldon Rankins; top LB Dannell Ellerbe; and speedy edge pass rusher Hau'oli Kikaha, whom Saints hoped would make big jump in second season. Offense, as usual, was exceptional, ranking first. Seemingly ageless Drew Brees led NFL in yards passing at age 37. Rookie receiver Michael Thomas' quick adjustment to pro game and ability to make difficult catches were evident early and Brees took advantage.

THEY NEED: DE, CB, S, OL, DL.

THEY DON'T NEED: QB, WR, TE, LB.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee; CB Gareon Conley, Ohio State; DE Taco Charlton, Michigan; DE Takkarist McKinley, UCLA; CB Quincy Wilson, Florida.

OUTLOOK: Often-secretive Saints coach Sean Payton readily acknowledges top priority this offseason is improving defense. It's that obvious. Likely early-round targets will be edge rusher or cornerback. Saints have addressed linebacker, defensive tackle and safety in free agency, but not with big names, so opportunities to upgrade those areas won't be ignored. Payton also has demonstrated he'll snag offensive skill players he likes, even when more practical choice or area of need might be another position. And with Brees entering final season under contract, Payton might be inclined to draft QB.

13. ARIZONA CARDINALS (7-8-1)

LAST SEASON: With nearly everyone returning from 13-3 team that made NFC championship game, Cardinals expected to be contender last season. Instead, they struggled out of gate and finished with first losing season in coach Bruce Arians' four years in Arizona. Cardinals did get breakout performance from running back David Johnson, who led league in yards from scrimmage and set NFL record by gaining at least 100 yards from scrimmage in each of first 15 games. But QB Carson Palmer and rest of offense couldn't repeat big-big play assault that was team's hallmark in 2015. Cardinals won close ones that season and lost them last year.

THEY NEED: CB, QB, ILB, WR.

THEY DON'T NEED: RB, OLB, OT.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: LB Reuben Foster, Alabama; QB Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech; WR Corey Davis, Western Michigan; WR Mike Williams, Clemson.

OUTLOOK: It's time for Arizona to address QB situation because this could well be 37-year-old Palmer's last season. Not greatest quarterback crop, though, and Arizona has other needs it may address with No. 13 pick. In addition to Mahomes, Cardinals took close look at Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer, but 13th might be reach for him. Cardinals could try to trade down, still get Kizer and add another pick. If team does get QB, he would watch from sideline for at least one season and learn under Arians, who has worked with some of game's best. But Arizona could address WR, too, with Michael Floyd gone and Larry Fitzgerald perhaps in final season. Cardinals have two terrific OLBs but could use some help at ILB, especially for long term.

14. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (7-9)

LAST SEASON: Missed playoffs third year in row despite 3-0 start, but rookie QB Carson Wentz started 16 games and showed plenty of promise despite lack of playmakers on offense. LT Lane Johnson's 10-game suspension for PED use helped cost them shot at playoffs. They were 5-1 with Johnson, 2-8 without him, including six losses by seven points or less. First-year coach Doug Pederson also got valuable on-job training and should be more comfortable one year in. Defense was vastly improved under new coordinator Jim Schwartz, though both starting cornerbacks aren't coming back. Special teams were one of best in league again.

THEY NEED: CB, RB, DE, WR.

THEY DON'T NEED: QB, G, S.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford; CB Gareon Conley, Ohio State; WR Mike Williams, Clemson; DE Charles Harris, Missouri; CB Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado.

OUTLOOK: First draft for Joe Douglas, hired last May as vice president of player personnel. Douglas works with executive VP Howie Roseman, though it's not known who has final say. Addition of free agent WRs Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith allows Eagles to focus on biggest need: cornerback. But they'd have tough time passing up McCaffrey, if he's available. They could trade down in draft that's deep at CB, though that might not sit well with fans in host city.

17. WASHINGTON REDSKINS (8-7-1)

LAST SEASON: No trip to postseason, thanks in large part to terrible defense that dragged down playoff-worthy offense. Offseason was train wreck lowlighted by messy and never fully explained firing of GM Scot McCloughan halfway through four-year contract. He has not been replaced; Bruce Allen, team president and right-hand man for owner Dan Snyder, is running show. Much-needed, long-overdue overhaul of defense began right away with firing of coordinator Joe Barry. Instead of bringing in one of big-name, successful folks available, Redskins promoted LB coach Greg Manusky. Team did sign free agents on defense, but didn't bring in any big-ticket players. Another huge question hanging over club: QB Kirk Cousins' status. He is under franchise tag again, still could be traded and, barring long-term deal reached by July 15, nothing is set beyond this season.

THEY NEED: DL, LB, RB, LG, QB, DB, WR.

THEY DON'T NEED: TE, LT, RG.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee; DT Malik McDowell, Michigan State; DE Taco Charlton, Michigan; LB Reuben Foster, Alabama; RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford.

OUTLOOK: Only trace of stability around franchise is two-year contract extension that came out of nowhere for coach Jay Gruden — despite late-season collapse — while uncertainty over McCloughan's future was still talk of town. Who knows what'll happen with Cousins? Who knows whether defense will be much better after additions of players such as DTs Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain and S D.J. Swearinger in free agency? Who knows who'll be calling shots during draft? There could be attempt to pick quarterback of future. Running back would seemingly be priority, too, and there is definite need at left guard. Depth all over roster is issue.

19. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (9-7)

LAST SEASON: Established themselves as team on rise, improving from six to nine wins and contending for playoff berth in Jameis Winston's second season. No. 1 overall pick from 2015 draft topped 4,000 yards passing for second straight year, with receiver Mike Evans also posting impressive numbers and becoming first-time Pro Bowl selection. Defensive lapses and absence of consistent running game hurt down stretch, contributing to failure to make playoffs for ninth consecutive season.

THEY NEED: RB, S, TE, DE, WR.

THEY DON'T NEED: QB, T, G.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State; DE Taco Charlton, Michigan; S Budda Baker, Washington.

OUTLOOK: With RB Doug Martin missing most of last season due to injuries and suspension that will extend three games into 2017, GM Jason Licht and coach Dirk Koetter figure to be interested in versatile runner/receiver to help Winston end club's long playoff drought. Top priority in free agency was adding speedy receiver to feature opposite Evans, Winston's favorite target. Licht and Koetter addressed that with signing of DeSean Jackson. Adding DT Chris Baker in free agency strengthened interior defensive line, however, still need dynamic pass rusher.

21. DETROIT LIONS (9-8)

LAST SEASON: Detroit surged atop NFC North with eight wins in nine-game stretch and became first NFL team to come back from fourth-quarter deficits to win eight games in single season. Lions, though, closed with three straight setbacks to spoil shot at winning division title for first time since 1993. Lions lost at Seattle 26-6 in wild-card game, extending postseason losing streak to nine games over 25 years. QB Matthew Stafford overcame retirement of star WR Calvin Johnson with one of his best years despite finishing season with injured finger on throwing hand.

THEY NEED: DE, LB, DB.

THEY DON'T NEED: QB, WR, OL.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: DE Taco Charlton, Michigan; DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee; LB Haason Reddick , Temple; S Jabrill Peppers, Michigan.

OUTLOOK: Detroit filled holes in free agency by signing OT Rick Wagner and OG T.J. Lang, but second-year GM created one by releasing injury-prone LB DeAndre Levy. Drafting player or two to play LB seems a priority, as does finding DE to play opposite Ezekiel Ansah. Lions also need help in secondary to line up with standout CB Darius Slay and 31-year-old S Glover Quin.

23. NEW YORK GIANTS (11-6)

LAST SEASON: Ben McAdoo got Giants back to playoffs for first time since 2011 season, but postseason was short-lived as Aaron Rodgers and Packers shredded Steve Spagnuolo's much-improved defense. Offense was a disappointment all year with no running game, porous line and no options on outside other than Odell Beckham Jr.

THEY NEED: RB, T, LB, DT, TE, QB for post-Eli Manning era.

THEY DON'T NEED: WR, CB, C, S.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: LB Jarrad Davis, Florida; RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State; T Garret Bolles, Utah.

OUTLOOK: Despite not having much cap space, GM Jerry Reese did plenty in offseason. He released veteran WR Victor Cruz and RB Rashad Jennings, re-signed DE Jason Pierre-Paul and LB Keenan Robinson, and got free agent WR Brandon Marshall and OL D.J. Fluker to sign. Ten defensive starters are back. New York is even taking chance on righting career of former Jets QB Geno Smith. Only major players lost were DT Johnathan Hankins, PK Robbie Gould and OT Marshall Newhouse. Giants don't gamble in draft. Unless there is tie in rankings or major concern about off-field problems, it's always best player available regardless of position. Cook is has had off-field problems; his talent makes him risk worth taking. An out-of-box pick would be Michigan DB Jabrill Peppers, game breaker as kick returner and wild card for linebacker or safety.

26. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (11-6-1)

LAST SEASON: Once again Seattle took advantage of weak NFC West and claimed fourth division title under Pete Carroll. But it was not typical Seahawks season. Vaunted defense was still fifth overall in NFL, but exposed late in year by season-ending injury to star safety Earl Thomas. Seattle's once reliable run game struggled in the post-Marshawn Lynch era and fell to 25th in NFL. QB Russell Wilson played through ankle and knee injuries most of season and was rarely given adequate protection. And despite all those issues, Seahawks won at least one playoff game for fifth straight season before losing to Atlanta in divisional round.

THEY NEED: CB, S, OL, DL.

THEY DON'T NEED: LB, RB, TE.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: CB Kevin King, Washington; S Obi Melifonwu, Connecticut; OL Cam Robinson, Alabama; OL Garett Boles, Utah; CB Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado.

OUTLOOK: GM John Schneider has to start looking toward future. Seahawks don't need to be rebuilt but are getting older in some key spots, especially on defense. Expect Schneider to be aggressive in draft restocking defensive line and secondary. Don't be surprised if he trades early-round selection for picks later. Seattle's biggest moves in free agency were offensive line and run game, and depth at linebacker. Schneider will certainly seek more options for offensive line that was Seattle's biggest weakness in 2016.

28. DALLAS COWBOYS (13-4)

LAST SEASON: One of best drafts in franchise history led to sea change, with QB Dak Prescott replacing 10-year starter Tony Romo, directing club-record 11-game winning streak, earning Offensive Rookie of Year honors and ultimately sending Romo to broadcast booth. NFL rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott was other rookie star as Cowboys won NFC East for second time in three years and took top seed in NFC playoffs before losing to Green Bay in divisional round. Defense again struggled to make game-changing plays and gave up winning drive to Packers after Cowboys twice pulled even in final five minutes.

THEY NEED: DE, CB, S.

THEY DON'T NEED: C, G, RB.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: CB Adoree Jackson, Southern Cal; DE Charles Harris, Missouri; DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee; CB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama; DE Takkarist McKinley, UCLA.

OUTLOOK: Because CBs Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr left in free agency, it's now hard to say which need is greater, pass rushing or depth at cornerback. With DE Randy Gregory out entire season for substance-abuse violations, getting to quarterback probably still top priority. That's partly because Anthony Brown, another product of last year's draft, and Orlando Scandrick are viable starters at CB. Arguably biggest loss in free agency was S Barry Church because of his intangibles. If 2016 second-rounder Jaylon Smith can't be impact LB because of college knee injury that sidelined him as rookie, Cowboys will need help there.

No. 29. GREEN BAY PACKERS (12-7)

LAST SEASON: Packers bounced back from midseason slump to win eight straight games before losing NFC title game in Atlanta. QB Aaron Rodgers carried team down stretch, accomplishment made more remarkable given loss of RB Eddie Lacy to ankle injury in October. WR Jordy Nelson (NFL-high 14 TD catches) returned from knee injury, while Davante Adams emerged to become third threat at wideout to join Nelson and Randall Cobb. Injuries ravaged cornerback position and slowed development of young players pressed to take more responsibility, contributing to porous pass defense (31st in league). LB Clay Matthews was slowed by shoulder and hamstring injuries.

THEY NEED: CB, RB, G, edge rusher.

THEY DON'T NEED: QB, T, TE, S.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford; RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State; LB T.J. Watt, Wisconsin; DE Takkarist McKinley, UCLA; DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee; CB Adoree' Jackson, USC; CB Tre'Davious White, LSU.

OUTLOOK: GM Ted Thompson has holes to fill after Packers took hits in free agency. Coach Mike McCarthy seems committed to keeping former WR Ty Montgomery at running back; team lost Lacy in free agency to Seattle. Thompson re-signed LB Nick Perry after career year, though pass rush could use infusion with Matthews turning 31 and veteran Julius Peppers now back in Carolina. CB Davon House returned to Packers in offseason after couple years in Jacksonville, but cornerback position still needs boost. Packers could stay in house to replace RG T.J. Lang, who signed with Detroit. Signings of free agent TEs Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks gives offense potential for new wrinkles.

31. ATLANTA FALCONS (13-6)

LAST SEASON: Falcons' feel-good story of winning NFC South in Dan Quinn's second season was soured by devastating collapse in Super Bowl. Atlanta blew 25-point lead in second half of overtime loss to Patriots. Still, it was special season as Falcons were surprise NFC champions. Led by MVP quarterback Matt Ryan, Atlanta led league in scoring. Young defense leaned heavily on four rookie starters and such second-year players as Vic Beasley, who led league with 15 1/2 sacks. Wide receiver Julio Jones is returning from foot surgery.

THEY NEED: OG, OLB, DT, FB, S.

THEY DON'T NEED: RB, QB, CB.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: OG Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky; OLB Charles Harris, Missouri; LB Takkarist McKinley, UCLA; DT Malik McDowell, Michigan State; S Budda Baker, Washington; S Jabrill Peppers, Michigan.

OUTLOOK: Offseason free-agent signings have provided at least possible answers to few obvious needs, freeing GM Thomas Dimitroff and Quinn to look for best available players. Falcons have focused on defense high in Quinn's first two drafts, and it would be no surprise if that plan continues, perhaps with another edge rusher to complement Beasley. Rretirement of right guard Chris Chester leaves obvious need that may be addressed early, even though team signed veteran free agent Hugh Thornton. Similarly, Falcons may see need to add more help at defensive tackle even after signing two-time Pro Bowler Dontari Poe. It appears unlikely team will re-sign Jonathan Babineaux. Fullback Patrick DiMarco, who signed with Buffalo, must be replaced. Falcons signed fullbacks Derrick Coleman and Soma Vainuku but could add more competition late in draft. Another key offseason move was re-signing cornerback Desmond Trufant. Team's top offensive skill position players return, including Jones and running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. New offensive coordinator Steve Sarkasian replaced Kyle Shanahan, hired as 49ers coach.

37. LOS ANGELES RAMS (4-12)

LAST SEASON: Move to West Coast did nothing to end Rams' streaks of 13 consecutive non-winning seasons and 12 straight non-playoff seasons. Los Angeles lost 11 of last 12, leading to Jeff Fisher's departure and hiring of Sean McVay as youngest head coach in NFL history. Rams had NFL's worst offense for second consecutive year, managing measly 262.7 yards per game — nearly 46 yards fewer than 31st-place San Francisco. No. 1 pick Jared Goff went 0-7 as starter after taking over, looking unsurprisingly shaky behind subpar offensive line. Rams mortgaged big chunk of future last spring to move up for Goff, and that's why Tennessee will be using Los Angeles' fifth overall selection this month.

THEY NEED: WR, CB, S, OL.

THEY DON'T NEED: QB, RB, DL.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: CB Adoree Jackson, USC; OT Garett Bolles, Utah; LB Taco Charlton, Michigan; DE/LB Takkarist McKinley, UCLA; OT Cam Robinson, Alabama; CB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama.

OUTLOOK: General manager Les Snead has inconsistent draft history, including big hits and big busts. Rams clearly aren't afraid to swing major trade, but another move up to first round might just dig deeper hole. With needs all over roster, they're more likely to take what they consider best available players with all picks, then see what they've got in training camp. McVay hasn't publicly expressed any particular draft desire to help him in fixing offense, but Rams signed LT Andrew Whitworth and WR Robert Woods in free agency to shore up two particular needs. Los Angeles doesn't have receiver over 6-foot-1 who played extensively last season, so a big pass catcher might be appealing.

48. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (8-8)

LAST SEASON: Championship aspiration heightened by 5-0 start was hammered by injuries and insufficient OL play. Loss of QB Teddy Bridgewater to major knee injury in practice 12 days before opener was lessened by arrival of replacement Sam Bradford, but trade to get him with Eagles forced GM Rick Spielman to part with first-round pick (No. 14). Bradford set NFL record for completion percentage despite poor protection, and Adam Thielen broke out as capable complement at WR to Stefon Diggs. But running game was worst in league. Defense that was stellar throughout run to 2015 division title and dominant in first five games last year slipped down stretch.

THEY NEED: G, DT, S, LB, RB, TE.

THEY DON'T NEED: CB, DE, WR, C.

POSSIBLE FIRST PICK (SECOND ROUND): DT Malik McDowell, Michigan State; G Dion Dawkins, Temple; G Taylor Moton, Western Michigan; S Budda Baker, Washington; S Marcus Maye, Washington.

OUTLOOK: After signing Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers in free agency, Vikings have new starting OTs. There's glaring need at RG, though, and as last season proved, there's no such thing as too much depth on OL. After knee injury ruined 2016, former franchise cornerstone RB Adrian Peterson was not retained. Latavius Murray was signed to join Jerick McKinnon in backfield, but deep draft class provides opportunity to look toward future. Harrison Smith could still use playmaking partner at safety, and uncertainty of Sharrif Floyd's knee injury makes DT position worth strengthening. Spielman has eight picks, with No. 48 overall followed by pair of selections in third and fourth round. That could be enough assets to use for move into end of first round, if so desired.

 

 

  • Written by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Future seems bright for young Blue Jackets after turnaround

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Columbus Blue Jackets, picked by many to sweep the basement of the Metropolitan Division this season, embarked on an unexpected and thrilling ride to the playoffs.

  • Written by MITCH STACY , AP Sports Writer