AFC North: 2014 Mel Kiper mock 3.0 preview

Kiper's Mock 3.0: Bengals

March, 13, 2014
Mar 13
10:30
AM ET
It has been said a lot this offseason, but bears repeating. Compared to most teams, the Cincinnati Bengals have relatively minor draft needs.

As it currently stands, due to Michael Johnson's signing with Tampa Bay and Kyle Cook getting cut, the Bengals will only be without two starters off last year's team. The rest of Cincinnati's starting lineup will return, meaning the Bengals won't be in the market in May to draft too many immediate impact players.

Cornerback remains an area of concern with veterans Terence Newman, Leon Hall and Adam Jones all now in their 30s. With each of their contracts set to expire in the next two years, and with injuries and age beginning to catch up to them, it would be in the Bengals' best interest to start looking into replacing them. The good news is that this draft is chock-full of secondary talent.

Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert, Ohio State's Bradley Roby, Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard, Florida State's Lamarcus Joyner, TCU's Jason Verrett and Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller are among the group of elite corners who could be available when the Bengals make their first-round pick at No. 24. Since so many teams have already made moves in free agency to bring in cornerbacks, it's possible that those with defensive back needs who pick before the Bengals will end up bypassing some of these players. If that happens, the odds of Gilbert or Dennard falling to 24th might increase.

Cincinnati's draft mantra in recent years has been to take the best available player. Coaches contend that will continue this year, and that's not a certainty that they will be using their first pick on a cornerback. As they look to start creating depth at multiple spots, the Bengals also have needs at outside linebacker, defensive end, center and safety. They also could draft a quarterback to help back up Andy Dalton, and a running back to aid in their efforts of employing a more physical offense this season.

Mel Kiper's latest mock draft .

Kiper's Mock 3.0: Steelers

March, 13, 2014
Mar 13
10:30
AM ET
PITTSBURGH -- Cornerback may be the Pittsburgh Steelers' biggest need in this year’s draft, and ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has the Steelers landing the top one on his board.

Kiper has the Steelers taking Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert with the 15th overall pick, changing his selection from Notre Dame defensive tackle Louis Nix III.

Kiper had the Steelers picking Nix in his first two mock drafts.

Kiper has Gilbert rated the 14th best player in the draft and the top one at what is considered a deep position this year.

The 6-foot, 202-pound Gilbert has good size and excellent speed. He ran the 40-yard dash in a blazing 4.38 seconds at the NFL scouting combine last month.

Gilbert’s showing in Indianapolis bolstered his stock following a season in which he intercepted seven passes, recorded 42 tackles and was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is given annually to the top defensive back in college football.

Here is what Kiper wrote about Gilbert, who could also be a return man in the NFL:

His athlete credentials are strong. On the field, he combines short-area quickness to adjust to routes and open-field speed to run with (or past) any receiver. He has enough size and strength to redirect routes at the line and can then flip his hips and run with anybody; he rarely allows much separation. Good ball skills and hands are evident both in coverage and the return game. Given the need at the position, it's not out of the question that he lands in the top 10.

The Steelers have not used a first-round pick on a cornerback since 1997 when they selected Chad Scott 24th overall but they need to draft at least two players at the position this year.

Ike Taylor agreed to a restructured deal earlier this week but he is not expected to play for the Steelers beyond 2014. William Gay and Cortez Allen are the only other experienced cornerbacks on the roster, and the former turned 29 in January.

Gilbert or Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard would make a lot of sense for the Steelers with their first pick in the draft.

Kiper's Mock 3.0: Browns

March, 13, 2014
Mar 13
10:30
AM ET
The Cleveland Browns have a fundamental decision to make in the draft: Do they go best quarterback, or do they go best player?

The Browns released two quarterbacks in 34 minutes on Wednesday and have Brian Hoyer and Alex Tanney on the roster. That puts quarterback as a need. But it was a need before Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell were released. It has been a need for the Browns since the team returned to Cleveland in 1999.

The problem for the Browns is the top three quarterbacks in the draft -- Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater -- are not considered among the top 10 players. So if the Browns take one, they’ll be going against their stated philosophy of “best available player.”

If they go best available player, they could build around the quarterback, take one later in the draft and let him grow while Hoyer plays. Guessing which way the Browns go is guessing their entire approach to the draft.

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