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Team-by-team draft needs: AFC North

  • By Pat Kirwan NFL.com
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Pat Kirwan breaks down each team's positional needs, listed in order of importance, entering the draft.

More team draft needs:
AFC: East | North | South | West
NFC: East | North | South | West

Baltimore Ravens' last five top picks
Year
Rd
Sel. #
Player
Pos.
School
1
18
Joe Flacco QB Delaware
1
29
Ben Grubbs OG Auburn
1
12
Haloti Ngata DT Oregon
1
22
Mark Clayton WR Oklahoma
2
51
Dwan Edwards DT Oregon State
» Baltimore Ravens' draft history

Baltimore Ravens

Wide receiver: Derrick Mason, 35, is the team's best and most consistent receiver, so at the very least, the Ravens need to look for an heir apparent. But the one thing missing from this offense is a dangerous deep threat, and Maryland's Darrius Heyward-Bey could be the answer. Even quarterback Joe Flacco is going to this prospect's workout.

Outside linebacker: Terrell Suggs was tagged as the Ravens' franchise player, and no long-term deal has been worked out yet. I'd be surprised if the Ravens are ready to elevate young backups Prescott Burgess or Antwan Barnes to the starting lineup.

Safety: Ed Reed, maybe the league's best free safety, is playing at a Pro Bowl level, but he'll turn 31 this year. Dawan Landry is a strong, versatile strong safety, but the team needs to start thinking about its next playmaker in the secondary.

Defensive end: Trevor Pryce will turn 34 this year and has just 6.5 sacks in his last 21 games after recording 13 in his first season in Baltimore. Even without defensive coordinator Rex Ryan (now the coach of the New York Jets), the Ravens will play an aggressive, attacking version of the 3-4, which requires players who can consistently pressure the quarterback.

Tight end: Todd Heap has been a shell of his former Pro Bowl self in recent seasons because of multiple injuries, but he has also struggled to find a comfort level in Cam Cameron's offensive scheme. Quinn Sypniewski had 34 receptions in 2007, but he missed the 2008 season because of a knee injury. He's mostly a blocking tight end anyway, so the Ravens need a receiving threat at the position.

Right tackle: The word early in the offseason was that veteran lineman Willie Anderson might retire, but he appears to be planning to return at this point. Still, though Anderson can be a versatile backup, the Ravens would rather not rely on him as a full-time starter at age 34. There are plenty of strong tackle prospects in this year's draft.

Cornerback: Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle are gone, but the signing of Domonique Foxworth gives the Ravens an adequate threesome with the speedy Fabian Washington and capable Frank Walker. But cornerback is far from a strength.

Punter/kicker: Matt Stover is gone for the time being and Steven Hauschka is a kickoff specialist with a strong leg, but he sometimes struggles with his accuracy. If the Ravens can find a player to handle kickoffs and field-goal attempts and save a roster spot, they'll do it.

Inside linebacker: Tavares Gooden, Jameel McClain or even Brendon Ayanbadejo could step into the departed Bart Scott's starting spot, but at the very least, look for the Ravens to add another young player for depth on Day 2 of the draft if the opportunity arises.

Draft choices: Nos. 26, 57, 88, 123, 162, 198

Cincinnati Bengals' last five top picks
Year
Rd
Sel. #
Player
Pos.
School
1
9
Keith Rivers LB USC
1
18
Leon Hall CB Michigan
1
24
Johnathan Joseph CB South Carolina
1
17
David Pollack LB Georgia
1
26
Chris Perry RB Michigan
» Cincinnati Bengals' draft history

Cincinnati Bengals

Left tackle: Stacy Andrews left the team as a free agent and Levi Jones has been injury-prone and is reportedly on the trading block. Therefore, if the Bengals don't take one of the premier pass blockers at the top of this draft, they might have to rely on guard Andrew Whitworth sliding outside again.

Defensive end: The Bengals had just 17 sacks in 2008. John Thornton, who tied with fellow defensive end Antwan Odom and defensive back Chinedum Ndukwe for the team lead with 3.0 sacks, is gone, so Odom will need some help for the Bengals to harass opposing quarterbacks.

Center: Eric Ghiaciuc won't be back, but there are some good center prospects in this year's draft class. If the Bengals don't opt for a more well-known prospect such as California's Alex Mack or Oregon's Max Unger in the opening rounds, someone like Jonathan Luigs could be available at the top of the third round.

Running back: The team re-signed Cedric Benson, but despite his improved play at the end of last season, the Bengals would be hard-pressed to rely on him as a full-time starter. Chris Perry, a 2004 first-round draft pick, hasn't been the player the Bengals hoped he would be, and there is a wealth of talented running backs in this year's draft.

Safety: Dexter Jackson is gone, and Chris Crocker and Ndukwe aren't front-line starter types.

Linebacker: Keith Rivers should develop into a star if he can stay on the field and Rashad Jeanty is a player on the rise. Dhani Jones is a serviceable starter in the middle, though the Bengals might want to think about upgrading at that position if they can. If coach Marvin Lewis ever decides to move more toward a hybrid scheme, he'll need active playmakers at linebacker -- and plenty of them.

Draft choices: Nos. 6, 38, 70, 98, 106, 142, 179, 209, 215, 249, 252

Cleveland Browns' last five top picks
Year
Rd
Sel. #
Player
Pos.
School
4
104
Beau Bell LB UNLV
1
3
Joe Thomas OT Wisconsin
1
13
Kamerion Wimbley LB Florida State
1
3
Braylon Edwards WR Michigan
1
6
Kellen Winslow TE Miami (Fla.)
» Cleveland Browns' draft history

Cleveland Browns

Outside linebacker: Willie McGinest is expected to retire and Kamerion Wimbley hasn't been able to provide a consistent pass rush. Like their Ohio counterparts in Cincinnati, the Browns generated just 17 sacks last season. They must find a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker who can pressure the quarterback in their 3-4 scheme.

Cornerback: Eric Wright established himself as a playmaker and a top-flight cornerback last season, but Brandon McDonald struggled mightily on the other side and free-agent signing Hank Poteat is a career backup. Daven Holly could re-sign with the Browns, but he's coming off major knee surgery and isn't a top talent. There might not be a true top cover corner in this draft, so Cleveland must be careful with its pick.

Safety: The Browns let Sean Jones walk during free agency, and though they re-signed Mike Adams, he shouldn't be considered a viable option as a full-time starter. The Browns need a player with some speed and range who can cover the deep middle.

Right tackle: Ryan Tucker will enter his 13th NFL season, and age and injuries have begun to take their toll. The Browns released starter Kevin Shaffer and signed John St. Clair in free agency, but the team still could use a road-grading tackle on the right side.

Wide receiver: Joe Jurevicius was released, Donte' Stallworth is facing a heap of legal trouble and TE Kellen Winslow was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Browns could start the season with Braylon Edwards and Josh Cribbs as their starters, but the rest of the receiving corps needs a serious upgrade.

Guard: The bench is thin behind starters Eric Steinbach and Rex Hadnot, so a developmental player who can be a swing guard/tackle would be a nice pickup on Day 2 of the draft.

Inside linebacker: The signing of Eric Barton addresses an immediate need that faced the Browns after Andra Davis left for the Denver Broncos via free agency. Barton is a tackling machine and a good guy inside in the 3-4 defense, but he's also a 10-year veteran who isn't a long-term solution.

Draft choices: Nos. 5, 36, 50, 104, 177

Pittsburgh Steelers' last five top picks
Year
Rd
Sel. #
Player
Pos.
School
1
23
Rashard Mendenhall RB Illinois
1
15
Lawrence Timmons LB Florida State
1
25
Santonio Holmes WR Ohio State
1
30
Heath Miller TE Virginia
1
11
Ben Roethlisberger QB Miami (Ohio)
» Pittsburgh Steelers' draft history

Pittsburgh Steelers

Offensive tackle: The Steelers seem to be excited about keeping most of their offensive line together. They did win the Super Bowl with it, but the line clearly was the team's weak link. While the Steelers will talk about drafting for depth, if an opportunity to draft a bona-fide left tackle early in the draft presents itself, they should do it. That would allow Willie Colon to move inside to guard, his natural position, and Max Starks to go to the right side, where his struggles against top pass rushers wouldn't be exposed.

Defensive end: Aaron Smith will turn 33 in April, Brett Keisel is 30 and backup Travis Kirschke is 34. This defense needs to get younger, and it has to start up front. The Steelers like their defensive ends big, strong and physical.

Cornerback: The loss of Bryant McFadden leaves Ike Taylor and 11-year veteran Deshea Townsend as the Steelers' starters. Fernando Bryant was re-signed, but the Steelers need a young starting cornerback with some speed and ball skills.

Wide receiver: Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward are the only experienced starters on the roster, and while Limas Sweed will step into the No. 3 role, the team needs to replace the deep threat it lost in Nate Washington (now with the Tennessee Titans).

Guard/center: The Steelers are high on their backups at offensive tackle, Tony Hills and Jason Capizzi, so Colon could move inside in a pinch. But ideally, the Steelers could use an interior swingman who can play guard and center and make the line calls. The team probably would be best-served to find an inexpensive veteran to fill the role after the draft.

Draft choices: Nos. 32, 64, 96, 132, 168, 169, 205, 226, 241

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