With the 2016 NFL Draft on tap at the end of this month, Bucky Brooks is breaking down the biggest areas of need for every team in the NFL, division by division. Below is his look at the AFC North.
Baltimore Ravens (9 total picks)
» Round 1: Pick 6 overall
» Round 2: Pick 36
» Round 3: Pick 70
» Round 4: Picks 104, 130 (from Broncos), 132 (compensatory selection) and 134 (compensatory selection)
» Round 6: Picks 182 and 209 (compensatory selection)
Biggest needs: cornerback, pass rusher, offensive tackle.
After suffering through an injury-plagued 2015 campaign, the Ravens will turn to the draft to fortify the weak spots on their roster. Considering the revolving door at cornerback last season, Baltimore needs to find a standout cover guy to start opposite Jimmy Smith. Florida's Vernon Hargreaves would be a great fit, based on his exceptional talent and blue-collar mentality. Of course, general manager Ozzie Newsome would need to determine if Hargreaves is worth a top-10 pick as an undersized playmaker on the perimeter. If the Ravens elect to wait until Day 2, Miami's Artie Burns, Baylor's Xavien Howard, Alabama's Cyrus Jones and Mississippi State's Will Redmond could get a look as a potential CB2. If Baltimore eyes the DPR (designated pass rusher) position, Ohio State's Joey Bosa, Eastern Kentucky's Noah Spence and Clemson's Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd could get first-round consideration. The Ravens could also consider adding an offensive tackle prospect during the early rounds as an eventual replacement for eight-year veteran Eugene Monroe. Mississippi's Laremy Tunsil, at one time thought of as a potential top overall pick, could be there at No. 6, based on the fallout from the QB-needy Rams' blockbuster trade into that first slot. If not, the Ravens could target an intriguing developmental prospect like Texas A&M's Germain Ifedi, Texas Tech's Le'Raven Clark or Indiana's Jason Spriggs on Day 2.
Cincinnati Bengals (7 total picks)
» Round 1: Pick 24 overall
» Round 2: Pick 55
» Round 3: Pick 87
» Round 4: Pick 122
» Round 5: Pick 161
» Round 6: Pick 199
» Round 7: Pick 245
Biggest needs: wide receiver, defensive tackle, linebacker.
Credit the Bengals for assembling one of the NFL's most talented rosters through excellent drafting and player development -- but the coaching staff and personnel department will need to bring their 'A' game on draft day to keep the momentum going, as a number of players departed in free agency. Finding a pass catcher on the perimeter is a priority after losing Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu to free agency. TCU's Josh Doctson, Mississippi's Laquon Treadwell, Baylor's Corey Coleman and Notre Dame's Will Fuller could handle WR2 duties opposite veteran stud A.J. Green. If the Bengals are intent on finding value players at the position, Ohio State's Michael Thomas, Pittsburgh's Tyler Boyd, Oklahoma's Sterling Shepard and Rutgers' Leonte Carroo could be in play on Day 2. On the defensive side of the ball, the Bengals need a few upgrades along the front seven. The depth in the defensive tackle class could lead coach Marvin Lewis to nab a talented interior defender like Mississippi's Robert Nkemdiche, Baylor's Andrew Billings, UCLA's Kenny Clark, Louisiana Tech's Vernon Butler or South Carolina State's Javon Hargrave in the early rounds. The Bengals could also use a speedy linebacker like Georgia's Leonard Floyd or LSU's Deion Jones to create chaos on the second level.
Cleveland Browns (12 total picks)
Biggest needs: quarterback, wide receiver, offensive tackle.
UPDATE: The Browns traded the second overall pick to the Eagles on Wednesday, after this article was published, along with a fourth-rounder in 2017, in exchange for a first-round pick (No. 8 overall), third-round pick (No. 77) and fourth-round pick (No. 100) in 2016, along with a first-round pick in 2017 and a second-rounder in 2018.
The Browns remain in rebuilding mode, but the roster-construction process might be drastically different under what could presumably be an analytics-driven staff intent on finding "value" players throughout the draft. They desperately need a franchise quarterback to lead them out of the abyss. Although recently signed veteran Robert Griffin III could emerge as that player, the Browns could also kick the tires on Cal's Jared Goff or North Dakota State's Carson Wentz -- whichever QB the Rams don't take first overall -- at the No. 2 spot. If Cleveland waits or trades that pick away, the staff could pluck an undervalued performer like Michigan State's Connor Cook or Mississippi State's Dak Prescott on Day 2. At wide receiver, the Browns need a couple of sure-handed pass catchers with a knack for putting the ball in the paint on the perimeter. The search could lead Cleveland to grab Ohio State's Michael Thomas or Pittsburgh's Tyler Boyd in Round 2, or take a flier on an underrated playmaker like Rutgers' Leonte Carroo in Round 3. If the Browns focus their efforts on upgrading the foundation of the offense (that is, the offensive line, which lost Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz to free agency), the team could snag Mississippi's Laremy Tunsil to pair with veteran left tackle Joe Thomas on the edges. Texas A&M's Germain Ifedi, Texas Tech's Le'Raven Clark and Indiana's Jason Spriggs are also intriguing possibilities on Day 2.
Pittsburgh Steelers (7 total picks)
» Round 1: Pick 25 overall
» Round 2: Pick 58
» Round 3: Pick 89
» Round 4: Pick 123
» Round 6: Pick 220 (compensatory selection)
» Round 7: Picks 229 (from Giants) and 246
Biggest needs: cornerback, safety, offensive line.
The Steelers' struggles against the pass (ranked 30th in 2015) should prompt coach Mike Tomlin and GM Kevin Colbert to spend most of the pre-draft preparation phase studying the defensive backs. Pittsburgh needs a long, rangy CB1 with excellent ball skills to thrive in its new zone-based system. Ohio State's Eli Apple, Houston's William Jackson III and Miami's Artie Burns certainly fit the bill, based on their physical dimensions and sound games. If the Steelers wait until Day 2, Baylor's Xavien Howard, Alabama's Cyrus Jones and North Carolina Central's Ryan Smith could get the nod. At safety, the Steelers could use a "traffic cop" like Ohio State's [Vonn Bell](/share/page/site/nfl-com/Vonn Bell), Boise State's Darian Thompson or Boston College's Justin Simmons to roam the deep middle -- or add a versatile player with corner skills like Maryland's Sean Davis or William & Mary's DeAndre Houston-Carson to the lineup on Day 2. On the offensive side of the ball, the Steelers could use a rugged interior blocker to enhance the potential of their running game. Stanford's Joshua Garnett, Arizona State's Christian Westerman and Arkansas' Sebastian Tretola could be options on Day 2.