1, 20. DETROIT (0-16) n LAST SEASON: Made NFL history, becoming the first 0-16 team

1, 20. DETROIT (0-16)
n LAST SEASON: Made NFL history, becoming the first 0-16 team. Matt Millen was fired as team president three games into the season with a 31-84 record over seven-plus years. Head coach Rod Marinelli, was fired after a three-year mark of 10-38. Detroit signed Daunte Culpepper off the sideline of his son’s football team in November and he started five days later, becoming one of five QBs to take a snap during a dubious season. The Lions’ saving grace was getting a first- and third-round pick from Dallas for WR Roy Williams, giving them five of first 82 picks.
n NEEDS: A lot; QB, LB, OG, DT, DE, CB, S.
n OUTLOOK: Lions are negotiating with their top target, Georgia QB Matthew Stafford, hoping to agree to a win-win deal before draft. Detroit desperately needs franchise QB, and Culpepper no longer qualifies. But giving Stafford $30-plus million in guaranteed money might not be the best option. Lions have chance to address their many needs with two picks in first round, one in second and two in third.
2. ST. LOUIS (2-14)
n LAST SEASON: Atrocious 0-4 start cost coach Scott Linehan his job, and injury to RB Steven Jackson stifled team’s rally under interim Jim Haslett. Rams finished with 10-game losing streak and have second overall pick for second straight year, with new GM Billy Devaney and coach Steve Spagnuolo in charge.
n NEEDS: OL, WR, LB, DB.
n OUTLOOK: Rams, 5-27 the last two seasons, need help almost everywhere. They lack depth at OL and WR after release of veterans Orlando Pace and Torry Holt.
3. KANSAS CITY (2-14)
n LAST SEASON: Chiefs had worst season in their history and released both their general manager and coach. They lost games in just about every way imaginable and essentially had only two dependable players. Both of them, guard Brian Waters and tight end Tony Gonzalez, are well into their 30s – and the Chiefs dealt Gonzalez on Thursday.
n NEEDS: Help almost everywhere. New GM Scott Pioli already addressed most important position, trading with his old boss, Bill Belichick, for New England quarterback Matt Cassel. He’s also acquired veteran linebackers Mike Vrabel and Zach Thomas, who will do for this year but are not long-term solutions at another position group of great weakness. Last year’s most glaring feebleness was 10-sack pass rush. Rookie DT Glenn Dorsey was very disappointing. Chiefs badly need to upgrade D-line and wide receivers and right side of O-line.
n OUTLOOK: Pioli made his bones wheeling and dealing alongside Belichick and getting his fingerprints on some of shrewdest and most farsighted pickups the league has seen. Now he’s on his own. Fans lap it up when owner Clark Hunt brags that in Pioli and rookie head coach Todd Haley, he’s hired two of the greatest football minds in the NFL.
4. SEATTLE (4-12)
n LAST SEASON: QB Matt Hasselbeck, seven receivers and whole OL were hurt. Defense collapsed carrying weight of entire team. Coach Mike Holmgren’s farewell season became a nightmare, Seattle’s worst since 1992.
n NEEDS: An outside linebacker to replace traded Pro Bowler Julian Peterson and prepare for franchise player Leroy Hill’s possible exit next year. A cornerstone left tackle to succeed crumbling icon Walter Jones. A wide receiver who can run without getting hurt. Bigger defensive backs. A fullback to replace departed Leonard Weaver. Depth on defensive line.
n OUTLOOK: Seahawks haven’t squashed speculation they may take Southern Cal QB Mark Sanchez, or Stafford if he’s not gone. They’d love to trade down with a QB-needy team such as Jets – Seattle isn’t thrilled with paying $20 million-plus in guaranteed cash to fourth pick. Unlike Holmgren, Mora has defense-first mind.
5. CLEVELAND (4-12)
n LAST SEASON: A colossal disaster. Picked to contend, Browns collapsed amid controversies, ineptitude on the field and dysfunction off it. Cleveland didn’t score an offensive touchdown in its final six games, leading to coach Romeo Crennel’s firing, general manager Phil Savage’s dismissal and hiring of former Jets coach Eric Mangini.
n NEEDS: LBs, WRs and a shut-down CB. The edges of Cleveland’s defensive front remain soft. Browns need someone on the outside who can get to quarterbacks, and an inside linebacker who can fill a hole. Possible trade of WR Braylon Edwards would leave a huge void at WR, a position also affected by Donte’ Stallworth’s ongoing legal troubles.
n OUTLOOK: Could be one of busiest teams on draft weekend with possible deals for Edwards and QBs Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson already being discussed. This is Mangini’s and new GM George Kokinis’ first chance to show rest of league their savvy – or lack of it.
6. CINCINNATI (4-11-1)
n LAST SEASON: The offensive line crumbled, leaving QB Carson Palmer vulnerable. He broke his nose, sprained his ankle and tore ligament and tendon in passing elbow, dooming Cincinnati’s season. Palmer decided to let the elbow heal on its own rather than have reconstructive surgery, and seems to be OK. The line is still overriding issue ‚ampÄampî RT Stacy Andrews left for Philadelphia and LT Levi Jones has been limited by injuries in last few years.
n NEEDS: OT, pass-rushing DL.
n OUTLOOK: Cincinnati’s priority is to upgrade both lines. Bengals gave up 51 sacks and had only 17 last season, their biggest reasons for four-win season. Signing DT Tank Johnson from Dallas could help get pressure on passer. Even if Palmer’s elbow is fully recovered, it won’t matter much if he gets knocked around again next season.
7. OAKLAND (5-11)
n LAST SEASON: Season got off to tumultuous start with feud between Lane Kiffin and owner Al Davis leading to coach’s firing after four games. Interim coach Tom Cable finished strong with wins over Houston and Tampa Bay to earn full-time job for this season.
n NEEDS: More help for young QB JaMarcus Russell. Oakland didn’t have a single wide receiver with more than 22 catches and got inconsistent play at both tackle positions to hinder Russell’s development. Defensive line once again struggled against run.
n OUTLOOK: Strong finish to last season and dysfunction around the division provide reason for optimism. But it will take a lot to reverse a six-year run of ineptitude in which Raiders have won league-low 24 games and become only team in league history to lose at least 11 games in six straight seasons.
8. JACKSONVILLE (5-11)
n LAST SEASON: Devastated by injuries along offensive line and dumbfounded by chemistry issues in locker room, Jaguars finished last in AFC South.
n NEEDS: Help everywhere, especially at receiver. Owner Wayne Weaver cleaned house, parting with veteran RB Fred Taylor, LB Mike Peterson, CB Drayton Florence, DE Paul Spicer, LT Khalif Barnes, and WRs Jerry Porter, Matt Jones and Reggie Williams.
n OUTLOOK: With new general manager Gene Smith calling the shots, the Jaguars hope to change their first-round fortunes. None of the franchise’s previous six first-rounders has made a Pro Bowl.
9. GREEN BAY (6-10)
n LAST SEASON: Packers made it through monumental training-camp distraction that was Brett Favre’s unretirement saga and eventual trade, and first-year starter Aaron Rodgers immediately began proving he has skills and toughness to be successful NFL quarterback. But after several key injuries, defense unraveled and Green Bay’s season fell apart.
n NEEDS: Linemen on both sides. LT Chad Clifton is heading toward downside of his career, and team has yet to resign RT Mark Tauscher, a free agent coming off major knee injury. They’re switching to 3-4 under new defensive coordinator Dom Capers and are desperate for defensive ends who fit that scheme, along with an outside linebacker. They also must keep age of 30-something cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Al Harris in mind.
n OUTLOOK: Defense was Packers’ biggest problem last season, and it would be surprise if they didn’t address that first with No. 9 pick – especially with scheme change in the works.
10. SAN FRANCISCO (7-9)
n LAST SEASON: Missed playoffs in their sixth straight year with losing record, but surged late in season with new coach Mike Singletary and QB Shaun Hill.
n NEEDS: A star receiver, a physical nose tackle, a DB.
n OUTLOOK: Niners aren’t good enough to pass up best player, no matter his position. They’re also not thin enough to force them into drafting for one needy position, although most think San Francisco could use a receiver with game-breaking speed. GM Scot McCloughan has emphasized his interest in big line prospects, on both offense and defense.
11. BUFFALO (7-9)
n LAST SEASON: Utterly unraveled in squandering 5-1 start to miss playoffs for ninth straight season – extending the longest drought in franchise history. QB Trent Edwards was inconsistent in sputtering offense that produced no touchdowns in three of final five games. Coach Dick Jauron was given another chance by owner Ralph Wilson, despite third straight 7-9 finish.
n NEEDS: Defensive lineman, either pass-rushing specialist to complement Aaron Schobel, or run-stuffing tackle to play alongside Marcus Stroud; OLB and OL, particularly if Bills fail to negotiate new contract with Pro Bowl LT Jason Peters.
n OUTLOOK: Signing T.O. provided Bills some sizzle, but this is team that hasn’t done anything to prove it can be contender in ever-tough AFC East. Team has won 21 games over past three seasons, and hopes in Buffalo are tempered following last year’s collapse.
12, 18. DENVER (8-8)
n LAST SEASON: Broncos became the NFL’s first team to blow three-game lead with three to go, missing out on playoffs for third straight year and costing Mike Shanahan his job after 14 seasons.
n NEEDS: New coach Josh McDaniels signed 16 free agents, but plans to build his front seven through draft. Desperately need nose tackle and pass rushers as they switch to 3-4 defense. Denver could bundle some picks together to move up into top 10.
n OUTLOOK: After tumultuous start to his tenure, McDaniels gets to show what he learned from Bill Belichick in New England. He’ll be running draft along with rookie GM Brian Xanders, who replaced Jim and Jeff Goodman, architects of several solid drafts, in second big front office shake-up of offseason. Could they possibly look for a QB rather than be satisfied with Kyle Orton and Chris Simms?
13. WASHINGTON (8-8)
n LAST SEASON: Started 6-2 under rookie coach Jim Zorn but faded down stretch as offense ground to a halt in very tough division.
n NEEDS: DE, OLB, OL.
n OUTLOOK: Owner Dan Snyder demonstrated his lack of faith in QB Jason Campbell by trying to swing trade with Denver for Jay Cutler, but Redskins’ problems are far deeper. Both lines are aging – although $100 million DT Albert Haynesworth should help defense muster some overdue pressure on QB, and free agent G Derrick Dockery will boost OL. Zorn’s West Coast offense produced only three plays of 40 yards or more all season, a deficiency due to disappointing receiver corps, lack of game-breaking runs from Clinton Portis, and – Campbell’s play-it-safe approach (13 TDs, 6 INTs). Sanchez will tempt Snyder if USC star is available, even though there are greater needs elsewhere.
14. NEW ORLEANS (8-8)
n LAST SEASON: Drew Brees became only quarterback other than Dan Marino to pass for more than 5,000 yards in season, but Marino’s 1984 Miami Dolphins went to Super Bowl, while Saints missed playoffs. Injuries to key players and defense in disarray at times doomed New Orleans to second straight season of mediocrity. New Orleans ranked 23rd in yards allowed and 26th in points allowed, all but canceling out league-leading offense. Defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs was fired, replaced by Gregg Williams. Saints also released veteran RB Deuce McAllister and veteran CB Mike McKenzie, both hampered by multiple knee injuries in recent years.
n NEEDS: DB, RB, LB.
n OUTLOOK: Disappointment with 2007 free-agent acquisition Jason David and release of McKenzie give New Orleans reasons to draft a cornerback, allowing Usama Young to make the transition to free safety. Saints also want more speed and versatility at linebacker. DEs Will Smith and Charles Grant could face four-game suspensions for using banned substances last year. New Orleans could use bigger, more punishing RB. Saints have no second- or third- round picks, and could see wisdom in trading first pick for multiple picks in lower rounds.
15. HOUSTON (8-8)
n LAST SEASON: Texans overcame 0-4 start to finish 8-8 for second straight season but failed to make first playoff trip in their seventh season. Mario Williams, top overall pick in 2006, made his first Pro Bowl, and rookie Steve Slaton showed he was more than a third down back by rushing for 1,282 yards.
n NEEDS: A CB to play opposite Dunta Robinson. An OLB to pair with star MLB DeMeco Ryans.
n OUTLOOK: Williams, who has improved each year, should be helped by addition of legitimate pass rusher Smith. Texans hope QB Matt Schaub can play full season after missing five games in each of his first two years in Houston with various injuries. If he can stay healthy, the offense, led by Andre Johnson and featuring more experienced Slaton, should be solid.
16. SAN DIEGO (8-8)
n LAST SEASON: Chargers parlayed December surge and Denver’s late-season collapse into third straight AFC West title despite .500 record. OLB Shawne Merriman’s loss to knee surgery after one game robbed defense of its spark, and LaDainian Tomlinson was slowed by toe and groin injuries, overshadowing QB Philip Rivers’ solid season. Bolts were exposed by more physical Pittsburgh Steelers in 35-24 playoff loss.
n NEEDS: Although Chargers have boasted in recent seasons about their depth and number of players under long-term contracts, they need a lot. What’s more important to take with first-rounder: RB who could be future replacement for L.T.; replacement for DE Igor Olshansky, who left as free agent; future replacement for Merriman, who will be free agent after this season; or an upgrade at LB? They could always trade down to stockpile picks – they don’t have a second-rounder.
n OUTLOOK: GM A.J. Smith is looking for draft-day rebound after his last two drafts turned out a little shaky. His 2007 first-rounder, WR Craig Davis, has been injured and Smith overspent to move up and grab S Eric Weddle in ’07 and FB Jacob Hester last year. Smith made rare admission in February he needs to do better job in player personnel decisions.
17. N.Y. JETS (9-7)
n LAST SEASON: Got off to promising start with Brett Favre energizing franchise in dire need of star power and showing he had plenty left in 39-year-old right arm. Then came disappointing collapse as Favre struggled with arm injury and Jets lost four of last five, missed playoffs and cost coach Eric Mangini his job.
n NEEDS: With Favre retired, Jets have glaring hole at QB, with new coach Rex Ryan insisting unproven Kellen Clemens, Brett Ratliff and Erik Ainge will compete for starting job. Still, Sanchez might be too tough to pass up if he’s available. Jets also need big, speedy WR such as Darrius Heyward-Bey for whoever QB is, as well as blocking TE, and depth at DE.
n OUTLOOK: Ryan has already instilled aggressive attitude and retooled most of defense through free agency (Bart Scott, Jim Leonhard, Marques Douglas) and trades (Lito Sheppard), so Jets will likely focus heavily on offense in draft. GM Mike Tannenbaum has proven creative on draft day with trades, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Jets trade up for Sanchez. If team stands pat, WR should be first order of business, with Jets keeping fingers crossed that Kansas State QB Josh Freeman is still around in second round.
19. TAMPA BAY (9-7)
n LAST SEASON: Got off to 9-3 record before losing final four games to miss playoffs. The collapse, in part because of complete breakdown on defense, claimed jobs of coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen.
n NEEDS: QB situation is unsettled following the decision to not re-sign quarterback Jeff Garcia, who ran offense the last two seasons. Byron Leftwich was signed to compete with Luke McCown, Brian Griese and second-year pro Josh Johnson for starting job. But new GM Mark Dominik could use his first-round pick to tab QB of future. LB and DT are priorities, too, especially after surprise release of LBs Derrick Brooks and Cato June.
n OUTLOOK: Less than month after receiving promotion to defensive coordinator (effective 2009 season), Raheem Morris became youngest head coach in NFL. He faces challenge of rebuilding defense that fell apart down stretch in 2008 and will be playing new scheme this year. After making several moves to bolster offense, including trading for Winslow and signing RB Derrick Ward, Morris and Dominik figure to address run defense and pass rush.
21,28. PHILADELPHIA (9-6-1)
n LAST SEASON: Philadelphia overcame daunting odds to reach playoffs and advanced all the way to NFC championship game before losing at Arizona in a game in which Eagles were favored.
n NEEDS: OL, RB, TE, DB, WR.
n OUTLOOK: With two first-round picks, Eagles could trade up or trade one of the picks to get player who can make immediate impact at wide receiver or offensive tackle. Or, they can stay put and fill two needs.
22. MINNESOTA (10-6)
n LAST SEASON: Vikings continued steady improvement in third year under coach Brad Childress, from 6-10 to 8-8 to 10-6. Dynamic RB Adrian Peterson led league in rushing. Vikings were once again stout under coordinator Leslie Frazier, with Pro Bowlers Kevin and Pat Williams anchoring one of league’s best run defenses. But QB play continued to plague them in loss to Philadelphia in first round of playoffs.
n NEEDS: RT, DB, WR.
n OUTLOOK: After quiet offseason that included misses on WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh (Seattle) and C Matt Birk (Baltimore), Vikings need banner draft to address weaknesses on offensive line, in defensive backfield and at receiver. Much hinges on QB situation, nothing new in the Childress era. Vikings traded for Sage Rosenfels, who will compete with incumbent Tarvaris Jackson for starting job.
23. NEW ENGLAND (11-5)
n LAST SEASON: After losing QB Tom Brady to season-ending knee injury in first quarter of opener, went 11-5 behind Matt Cassel. But Patriots missed playoffs for first time in six seasons – losing out to Miami on third tiebreaker, conference record. Wes Welker had another outstanding year with 111 catches. Linebacking corps, in need of youth, had NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year, first-round pick Jerod Mayo.
n NEEDS: LB. Safety, with possibility Rodney Harrison will retire. WR, with no promising youngsters on roster.
n OUTLOOK: Brady’s return is biggest boost for an offense that added other veterans – RB Fred Taylor and WRs Joey Galloway and Greg Lewis – through free agency. Patriots received only a second-round pick when they traded Cassel and LB Mike Vrabel to Kansas City, but have four of top 58 choices. Young secondary should get help from Shawn Springs and Leigh Bodden, veteran free agents signed in offseason.
24. ATLANTA (11-5)
n LAST SEASON: One of NFL’s biggest surprises, they improved eight games over previous season to make playoffs and put Michael Vick debacle in rearview mirror. QB Matt Ryan was rookie of the year, and RB Michael Turner showed he could handle the load in first year as a starter.
n NEEDS: Help on defense. The line looks thin, even with DE John Abraham chasing down opposing QBs. Franchise stalwart Keith Brooking left in free agency, as did fellow LB Michael Boley. The Falcons also cut loose Lawyer Milloy, deciding to rebuild the secondary with youth.
n OUTLOOK: Picking much lower than a year ago (Ryan was No. 3 selection), Falcons will find it more difficult to land an impact player. They’ll likely focus on defense.
25. MIAMI (11-5)
n LAST SEASON: Went from worst in NFL in 2007 to first in AFC East in 2008. Under new Bill Parcells regime, Dolphins became first team to make postseason a year after winning only once, reaching playoffs for first time in seven years before losing to Baltimore in opening round.
n NEEDS: Departure of Andre Goodman left glaring hole at CB. An OLB to play opposite Joey Porter would also upgrade defense, and Miami has lacked a No. 1 receiver since trading Chris Chambers in 2007.
n OUTLOOK: Parcells considers size paramount, and he’d like to add some more pieces to the Dolphins’ 3-4 defense. CBs and WRs will be available in later rounds, and Miami has two second-round picks. With nine choices overall, Dolphins are also likely to draft a couple of OLs.
26. BALTIMORE (11-5)
n LAST SEASON: Ravens won two playoff games and reached AFC championship game under first-year coach John Harbaugh. Rookie QB Joe Flacco justified his stature as first-round pick by guiding Baltimore to 9-2 record to close regular season.
n NEEDS: WR, CB, OL, LB.
n OUTLOOK: Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome has knack for panning gold out of first round, even at No. 26. Ray Lewis went 26th in 1996 and Ed Reed was chosen with 24th overall pick in 2002. Newsome usually chooses talent over need, but he might decide to fill a void early because Baltimore has only six picks.
27. INDIANAPOLIS (12-4)
n LAST SEASON: Indy won 12 games for a record sixth straight season and reached playoffs for seventh year in row. Then Colts fell short – again. Peyton Manning overcame summer knee injury to win third MVP, and his second-half surge overshadowed Colts’ poor run defense.
n NEEDS: DT or LB. Opponents repeatedly exposed Indy’s soft middle last season, making a bigger, stronger player there a necessity. Or at least an OLB who can make plays more consistently. May also be in market for WR to replace departed Marvin Harrison or RB to share burden with Joseph Addai.
n OUTLOOK: With Manning in charge and young offensive line growing up, there’s little doubt Indy will score points. But key to reaching another Super Bowl is playing keepaway – something other teams were successful doing against Colts last year. If draft mastermind Bill Polian finds right run-stuffing tackle or linebacker, Colts could wind up playing for Lombardi Trophy again.
29. N.Y. GIANTS (12-4)
n LAST SEASON: Had a shot for second straight Super Bowl until now-released Plaxico Burress shot himself in thigh in late November. Without deep threat, lost four of final five and were eliminated by Philadelphia in NFC semifinal.
n NEEDS: Someone to provide deep threat again.
n OUTLOOK: The Giants have 10 picks. The needs might change if GM Jerry Reese packages some picks (five in first three rounds) to either move up for WR or to trade for WR Braylon Edwards, especially if Cleveland takes Crabtree.
30. TENNESSEE (13-3)
n LAST SEASON: Titans posted NFL’s best record, earning AFC’s No. 1 seed for their sixth playoff berth in 10 seasons. But they lost to Ravens in AFC semifinal.
n NEEDS: More offensive speed to ease pressure on Pro Bowl RB Chris Johnson. Also DT and DE to help replace All-Pro Albert Haynesworth, who left for massive contract from Washington.
n OUTLOOK: Titans pick 30th, barring a rare move up. They have 10 picks, three among first 94, even after giving up fifth-round pick to Dallas as final compensation in the Adam “Pacman” Jones trade. They have luxury of looking for depth and best players available with an eye to replacing CB Nick Harper and others.
31. ARIZONA (9-7)
n LAST SEASON: Advanced to playoffs for first time in a decade by winning weak NFC West, then caught fire in improbable playoff run to beat Atlanta, Carolina and Philadelphia and become NFC champions. With virtually unstoppable combination of Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald, came within a minute of Super Bowl upset of Pittsburgh. Defense was inconsistent, though, and its collapse on that final drive against Steelers helped lead to firing of coordinator Clancy Pendergast.
n NEEDS: Another RB to help worst running game in NFL. Edgerrin James wants to be released, but Cardinals won’t do it until they feel secure at position. Hard-running Tim Hightower returns, but speed back J.J. Arrington left via free agency. Also an OLB because team needs to improve pass rush. Center, although coach Ken Whisenhunt insists he’s pleased with Lyle Sendlein. Tight end.
n OUTLOOK: Cardinals hope to ride their momentum and confidence they gained from last season and are set at nearly every position. They look to add depth on OL, add a TE and perhaps another player on D-line and could use a backup safety. Last year’s run has, at least for now, buried the franchise’s reputation as the NFL’s biggest loser.
32. PITTSBURGH (12-4)
n LAST SEASON: Won Super Bowl – their sixth, a record.
n NEEDS: WR, CB, LB, DL depth, maybe an extra OL.
n OUTLOOK: Steelers traditionally use the draft as wisely as any team – and they’ve won Super Bowl twice in four seasons because they do. Director of football operations Kevin Colbert must be creative this time as Steelers draft 32nd. Another WR and CB are necessities, and defensive linemen all are in their 30s. They didn’t take big hit in free agency that some Super Bowl winners do – most key players already were locked up.
One possible loss is irreplaceable. Owner Dan Rooney has been chosen as U.S. ambassador to Ireland and, while he won’t leave organization if confirmed, this will be first time since Rooney was a toddler in 1930s he won’t be fixture at Steelers practices and games. Steelers can’t rely on this draft to fill that huge void.
49. CHICAGO (9-7)
n LAST SEASON: Missed playoffs for second straight year since run to Super Bowl due to injuries and shaky play on both sides. Receivers had trouble getting open and hanging onto ball. Knee problems dating to 2007 limited DT Tommie Harris’ effectiveness along with his participation in practice. Injuries have also limited LB Brian Urlacher.
n NEEDS: WR, help in secondary.
n OUTLOOK: There’s finally hope for passing game stuck in neutral for most of the past six decades, since Sid Luckman lined up behind center. Of course, someone has to catch the ball. TEs Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark can. So can RB Matt Forte. But the wideouts? Bears need help there. Return specialist Devin Hester struggled with bigger role on offense, Rashied Davis had trouble hanging onto ball, and third-round draft pick Earl Bennett didn’t catch pass as rookie.
51. DALLAS (9-7)
n LAST SEASON: Favorites to win NFC didn’t even make the playoffs, making it 12 straight seasons without postseason victory. Cowboys lost three of their last four games, hardly even showing up for finale against Philly even though win would’ve given them a wild-card berth.
n NEEDS: WR to help replace Terrell Owens, S to replace Roy Williams, depth on both lines, youth at LB.
n OUTLOOK: Root of last season’s problem was traced to divisiveness in locker room. There’s a lot of talk about addition by subtraction, and it’ll be up to Tony Romo to prove that on offense. Defensive burden falls on coach Wade Phillips, who also will be his own defensive coordinator.
59. CAROLINA (12-4)
n LAST SEASON: Rode dominant 1-2 punch of RBs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart and overcame WR Steve Smith’s two-game suspension to win NFC South. But defense faltered late and they were stunned 33-13 at home by Arizona in NFC divisional playoffs.
n NEEDS: Help on DL, regardless of whether disgruntled DE Julius Peppers remains a Panther. OL depth after departures of Geoff Hangartner, Jeremy Bridges and Frank Omiyale. No. 3 CB after Ken Lucas was released and Richard Marshall was promoted to starter. WR with D.J. Hackett jettisoned and Muhsin Muhammad turning 36.
n OUTLOOK: Peppers’ stalemate has handcuffed them in free agency, and they have only five draft picks. Need to make good decisions in late rounds to shore up depth. They’ve never had consecutive winning seasons, and brutal 2009 schedule makes another division title a difficult task.

 

John Pitts