- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
As the NFL draft nears, AFC North teams are narrowing their list of prospects to take with the first-round pick. This week we look at those select players and how each would fit with their respective division teams in 2009.
On Monday we start with potential prospects for the Cleveland Browns, who own the No. 5 overall pick:
1. Brian Orakpo, DE/OLB, Texas
Assuming Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry, the best-case scenario, is taken off the board, Texas hybrid Brian Orakpo could be the next best option on Cleveland's radar. He has a mean streak and the ability to rush the passer from the defensive end or outside linebacker position. The Browns desperately need those assets added to their defense. If Orakpo fulfills his projection to become a No. 1 pass rusher, he would take a lot of pressure off outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley, who would get fewer double teams and develop into a better player in his own right. The pair of Orakpo and an energized Wimbley in 2009 would be a significant upgrade from last season.
2. Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
Although a lot of NFL people are against taking a wide receiver in the top five, the Browns just might do it. The recent release of Joe Jurevicius and serious legal trouble for starter Donte Stallworth have suddenly added to the urgency to getting another playmaker at the position. Crabtree would give Cleveland a big-time playmaker opposite starter Braylon Edwards, which would help the quarterback to be named later and open up the running game. Plus Edwards set to become a free agent in 2010 and, barring a franchise tag, he likely will not return. Crabtree could step into the top receiver role in Cleveland for years to come.
3. B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College
Cleveland has very little depth on the defensive line and needs to add players to the rotation. The Browns haven't stopped the run in a very long time and could use Raji's ability to do so. But Raji has to prove he could play defensive end in a 3-4 defense, because there is very little playing time available behind Pro Bowl nose tackle Shaun Rogers. Pairing Rogers with Raji and a third d-lineman (Shaun or Robaire Smith?) would be a significant upgrade and a very physical unit, which is necessary in the AFC North. There was a report last week of Raji failing a drug test which, if confirmed, would likely take him out of the running.
Next up Tuesday: A look at the Cincinnati Bengals
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker As the NFL draft nears, AFC North teams are narrowing their list of prospects to take with the first-round pick. This week we look at those select players and how each would fit with their respective division teams in 2009.