Early injuries impact draft needs

Ty Warren is a huge loss for New England, at a position the Patriots are likely to supplement. Getty Images

As an evaluator of NFL teams and the thousands of college football players who could eventually play for them, I'm constantly asked how injuries play into the conversation, particularly as mock draft season approaches. Is an injury at a key position automatically a "need" -- or is it more of a distraction in the overall picture?

Like a lot of things, it's a shade of gray.

People constantly point out when a team hasn't planned for a key injury, but the fact is, within the constraints of a set roster size, teams attempt to be deep everywhere. Injuries are just the constant. For this, I take a look at teams that have faced significant injuries, and whether those injuries amount to a scenario where I think the team should already be looking forward to drafting someone to help out in that spot next spring. Not every team is represented.

Atlanta: Jerious Norwood
I thought Norwood filled a nice role on this team as a change of pace from the bruising Michael Turner. But I could say that about a lot of situations where you lose a back with Norwood's type of explosiveness, because this is now a league where you have to maintain a mix in the backfield, both because of injuries and as a way to open up the playbook. Not only because of Norwood's health questions -- Turner has certainly piled up the carries as well -- it's fair to assume a running back will be targeted somewhere in Atlanta's draft.