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NFL Draft Preview: AFC North

Gabe Salgado

Part five of our NFL Draft preview takes us to the AFC North, the division which sent three teams to the playoffs last year. It is also the only division in which three teams had ten or more wins. Aside from the last place Cleveland Browns, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals, and the Baltimore Ravens are looking to separate themselves from each other in 2015.

The NFL Draft is the first step in achieving just that.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers: Own picks 22, 56, 87, 121, 160, 199, 212 and 239 overall.

The Steelers needs are few but they are also glaring. 12-year Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu retired earlier this month so now the Steelers have a major void to fill at safety. They also need to re-stock at the tight end position as veteran Heath Miller is entering his 11th season and will turn 32 in midseason.

The other tight ends on the current roster, Rob Blanchflower and Michael Palmer, are very unproven at this point. They also need depth at both inside and outside linebacker positions as veterans James Harrison and Lawrence Timmons are surrounded by a bunch of young players with limited experience.

Losing Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones didn’t help matters in this regard. So, here are some rookies who could be waving The Terrible Towel this fall….

Safety:

As I’ve stated in previous draft articles, this year’s safety class leaves a little bit to be desired. But the Steelers with their coaching staff could get the most out of Virginia Tech’s Kyshoen Jarrett (5’10”, 200) and Detrick Bonner (6’0”, 237). Stanford’s Jordan Richards (5’11”, 211) may also be a nice fit as he has experience with a 3-4 defense.

The same can be said for Georgia Tech’s Isaiah Johnson (6’2”, 205) and Navy’s Parrish Gaines (6’2”, 200).

Tight End:

Two players that would easily fit the Steelers style of offense would be Ohio State’s Jeff Heuerman (6’5”, 254), and Penn State’s Jesse James (6’7”, 261).

Linebacker:

Washington’s Hau’oli Kikaha (6’2”, 253) and John Timu (6’1”, 246) possess the ideal size and speed that Pittsburgh looks for when molding their 3-4 base.

 

Cincinnati Bengals: Own pics 21, 53, 85, 99, 120, 135, 157, 197 and 238 overall.

Tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Alex Smith are still on the free agent market. This could mean that the Bengals are not interested in paying their salary demands. Therefore, Tyler Eifert could be next season’s starter and he’ll need some depth behind him.

A.J. Green is a one man show at wide receiver, so it’s time he gets a supporting cast. Aside from Green, the rest of the Bengals receiving core is slightly young and inexperienced. They also need some bodies at the center position.

Here are some young talents who may roam the field at Paul Brown Stadium in 2015…..

Tight End:

If the Bengals are looking to add young talent to mix with Eifert, perhaps Illinois State’s James O’Shaughnessy (6’4”, 245) and Southern Illinois’ MyCole Pruitt (6’2”, 251) could be moldable players for head coach Marvin Lewis.

Wide Receiver:

Considering where the Bengals are selecting in this year’s draft, they won’t be able to draft too high of a pick at this position. But they could land local talents in Ohio State’s Evan Spencer (6’2”, 208) or Devin Smith (6’0”, 196).

Center:

Two players who I think could make their way into the NFL with the Bengals are Toledo’s Greg Mancz (6’4”, 301), and Notre Dame’s Christian Lombard (6’5”, 311).

 

Baltimore Ravens: Own picks 26, 58, 90, 122, 125, 136, 158, 171, 176 and 204 overall.

The most obvious need for the Ravens is running back after the entire Ray Rice saga. They also need a boost at wide receiver with Torrey Smith moving to San Francisco, and Steve Smith Sr. entering his 15th pro season. Expect them to add a cornerback or two as well.

Here are the potential draft choices for the Ravens…..

Running Back:

The Louisville tandem of Michael Dyer (5’8, 218) and Dominique Brown (6’2”, 234) could suit the Ravens perfectly as both men have already played in pro-style offenses.

Wide Receiver:

Michigan State’s Tony Lippett (6’2”, 192) also knows the basics of a pro offense. They could also stay in-state with Maryland’s Deon Long (6’0”, 192). I also think that Notre Dame’s DaVaris Daniels (6’1”, 201) could be a sleeper pick.

Cornerback:

Considering the division the Ravens play in, they’ll need corners who can play both the run and pass. Notre Dame’s Cody Riggs (5’9”, 185), Auburn’s converted quarterback Nick Marshall (6’1”, 207), and Washington’s Marcus Peters (6’0”, 197) come to mind for me.

 

Cleveland Browns: 12, 19, 43, 77, 111, 115, 147, 189, 202 and 229 overall.

The Browns have the most pressing needs out of anyone in this division. They need a tight end to replace Jordan Cameron, they need help along the defensive line, help at safety and maybe a backup quarterback in case Josh McCown doesn’t work out and Johnny Manziel can’t get back on the field. So, here we go….

Tight End:

Delware’s Nick Boyle (6’4”, 268) and Louisville’s Gerald Christian (6’3”, 244) could fit into Cleveland’s vertical passing game.

Defensive Line:

With two first round picks, the Browns can easily land some of the top pass rushers on this list.

Safety:

Michigan State’s Kurtis Drummond (6’1”, 208), Arizona State’s Damarious Randall (5’11”, 196) and Syracuse’s Durell Eskridge (6’3”, 208) are worth a look for the Browns.

 

The AFC is in for another hard hitting year.

 

 



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