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Saturday, March 12, 2011
Walker's weekend mailbag

By James Walker
ESPN.com

Let's see what is in the weekend mailbag.

Michael H from San Antonio, Texas, wants to know how likely is it for the Cleveland Browns to trade the No. 6 overall pick.

James Walker: There's always a possibility, Michael, and this is a great year to do it, because there are a lot of good prospects in the top 20. The Browns wanted to trade down last year but could not generate enough interest in their seventh pick. This year, there will be several teams looking to move up depending on how the draft board shakes out. But I think the Browns, who need more star players, would be wise to take the best player at No. 6.


Eddie Kilroy from Brunswick, Ohio, writes: With the Browns switching to a 4-3 defense, what will this mean for Ahtyba Rubin? Do you see him having success in this system?

Walker: Eddie, Rubin had a breakout season in 2010, recording 82 tackles and two sacks. But I think he wore down in the final month of the season. Playing a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense is not easy, because you face constant double-teams. But having four defensive linemen on the field should help Rubin. The technique and responsibilities are different, but it's more conventional and easier to learn.


Aaron B. Huntington, W.Va., wants to know why I think the Cincinnati Bengals will need at least two years to rebuild.

Walker: Aaron, I usually view the NFL on a year-to-year basis, because things can change quickly. Based on the inner turmoil and what's on their roster, I don't project the Bengals to make the playoffs in 2011. Therefore, they are at least two years away from contending. It might be longer if starting quarterback Carson Palmer is traded or retires. Obviously, Palmer doesn't view the Bengals as contenders next season or he would not threaten to retire. Listen to your quarterback.


Will from Nashville, Tenn., writes: How much of a disaster would it be for the Bengals to draft a quarterback with the No. 4 pick?

Walker: Will, the situation is fluid and has many variables. First, the Bengals have to decide what to do with Palmer. If they let him sit on the roster and hope he returns in September, it might not be wise to invest the No. 4 pick in a quarterback. Cincinnati should probably get "Palmer insurance" in the second or third round. But if the team softens its stance and decides it's best to trade Palmer, it's not a bad idea to try to get the best quarterback available, because that player will definitely be your starter in 2011. From there, the Bengals would have to decide whether Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert is best for their team.


John from Maryland writes: Is it more likely the Baltimore Ravens use a first-round draft pick on a corner or snag one in free agency?

Walker: Baltimore's intention is to re-sign its own free-agent corners: Josh Wilson and Chris Carr. If they keep both, I don't think the Ravens will add another cornerback until after the first round. Baltimore needs help in other areas, such as right tackle.


Cooper from Baltimore writes: If the Ravens are expected to part ways with tailback Willis McGahee because of his contract, do you possibly see a trade?

Walker: Cooper, McGahee is to make $6 million next season. So his contract is probably too large for a trade. Just as the Ravens don't want to pay McGahee that kind of money, neither do other teams. Baltimore will cut the running back and interested teams can simply wait for that day, then offer McGahee a price they are comfortable with.


Ken from Washington, D.C., wants to know if the Pittsburgh Steelers could trade up to get LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson or Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara.

Walker: Not likely, Ken. Peterson is a lock for the top 10, and Amukamara is probably not far behind. With Pittsburgh holding the No. 31 overall pick, it would have to give up too much to move that high in the draft.


Gary Thomas from Swansea, UK, writes: Leading up to the draft, how far will an organization go to hide its hand over a potential pick?

Walker: This is the time of year when you can least believe what you hear, see and read, Gary. There will be reports all over the place with various information, misinformation and smoke screens. It's just part of the competitive business where everyone is secretive and wants to get an edge on other teams. There are certain things you can get a solid read on, such as visits and private workouts. Teams only have a certain number of players they can meet with leading up to the draft. Plus, valuable time is being invested. So I think that's an accurate gauge.