Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Draft Watch: AFC North
By James Walker
» NFC Needs Revisited: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South
» Draft Watch:
Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)
Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Biggest needs revisited.
Going into the offseason, Baltimore's biggest need was clearly at wide receiver. But following the recent acquisitions of Anquan Boldin, Donte' Stallworth and re-signing Derrick Mason, that is no longer the case. The Ravens could still use a blazer, but no one could blame them at this point if they decide to address another need such as cornerback. Baltimore has health issues with Lardarius Webb and Fabian Washington. Both players are rehabbing knee injuries and may not be 100 percent by the start of training camp. Look for the Ravens to address this position at some point in the draft.
Cincinnati had the same issue as Baltimore, which was a need at receiver. Signing Antonio Bryant to a four-year contract filled a huge void to get help for Pro Bowl receiver Chad Ochocinco. Now the Bengals' biggest focus should be getting a pass-catching tight end. It's been a long time since the Bengals had a quality player at the position who can stretch the field. A case can be made that quarterback Carson Palmer has never had that luxury during his career. Oklahoma's Jermaine Gresham and Florida's Aaron Hernandez are two good tight end prospects who could fill that void in the draft.
As we pointed out Tuesday, the Browns patched some holes in free agency but still have work to do to climb out of the basement of the AFC North. It's hard to pinpoint one need on this team. But with the shift at quarterback to established veteran Jake Delhomme, let's go with secondary help just edging the receiver position. The Browns need a big-time corner and/or a play-making safety. They may be able to get a difference-maker like safety Eric Berry or Earl Thomas in the draft. Both players are highly coveted on a lot of teams' draft boards. There also are good cornerbacks available after the first round.
Pittsburgh's primary need still hasn't changed since the beginning of free agency. It's no secret by now that I believe the cornerback position is the biggest void on Pittsburgh's roster. But there might not be a prospect worth taking at No. 18. So if a stud offensive tackle or guard (Mike Iupati?) is available to Pittsburgh, that wouldn't be a bad choice either. The Steelers could use a mauler in the running game to get the tough yards when needed.