Commentary

NFL draft backup plans

So your top option is gone. Mel looks at how each team could draft with needs in mind

Updated: April 3, 2011, 11:50 AM ET
By Mel Kiper Jr. | ESPN.com
Packers War RoomAP Photo/Evan Siegle/PoolThe war room members must always be aware of plans B, C, D and so on.

Every Friday Mel Kiper writes about the NFL through the prism of the NFL draft. For this piece, we asked him to evaluate the draft backup plans for every NFL team.

Every year we hear general managers assess their draft by saying, "We took the best player available to us," or "He was No. 1 on our draft board." This is always a mix of reality and spin. Every team has its own board -- a ranking of the top players overall and also the top players available at their biggest positions of need. And while we seem to spend a lot of time focusing on the top need for each team, we often overlook that second- or third-biggest need and how it doesn't hurt to address that early, if you have a plan for addressing the top need later.

Let's take a look at the second- and third-biggest needs for each team, and how they could play into draft strategy based on where they are picking currently -- particularly if a team's top choice is off the board.

1. Carolina Panthers
Carolina's top need is along the defensive line, where I feel they really need to find an elite defensive tackle. The options there are obvious, with Nick Fairley and Marcell Dareus dominating the conversation. But I also have their second-biggest need at wideout. Is it too high to take a lock like A.J. Green? It's something they could consider. (But that also depends on what they're thinking given the quarterback options.)

2. Denver Broncos
I also have the defensive line as Denver's top area of need. But right behind that is the secondary, where they could use a young cornerback. If Patrick Peterson is available, it'd be hard to pass on him, even with the aforementioned guys available. (Denver could also target outside linebacker.)

Mel Kiper Jr.

Football analyst