AFC North: Dan Williams

Ravens: Broncos' offer too enticing

April, 23, 2010
4/23/10
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Here is a little-known fact: Thursday marked the first time in franchise history that the Baltimore Ravens traded out of the first round.

Considering how much the Ravens value the draft, they needed a hefty offer to trade their top pick, and they got one from the Denver Broncos, according to Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome.

Denver offer its second-, third- and fourth-round picks for Baltimore's selection at No. 25. The Broncos ended up making the controversial selection of quarterback Tim Tebow, which is a player they must have really wanted, considering the bounty.

"[Denver] made me an initial offer early [Thursday] morning, and after the draft unfolded, they kept increasing the offer," Newsome explained to reporters in Baltimore.

The Ravens now have seven picks in this year's draft after starting with just five following the Anquan Boldin trade.

The move didn't come without risks. The Ravens passed over quality prospects such as cornerback Kyle Wilson and defensive linemen Jared Odrick and Dan Williams. All three players could have been good additions for Baltimore at No. 25.

But this is considered a very deep draft and there are still plenty of quality players on the board. The Ravens will make their first pick of the draft Friday at No. 43 and also have the No. 57 overall pick in the second round.

"We've always felt that this was a draft that could be very beneficial to us if we could have multiple picks," Newsome said. "And now we have them."

Morning take: Ravens look ahead

April, 23, 2010
4/23/10
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Here are the most interesting stories Friday in the AFC North:

  • After trading out of the first round, the Baltimore Ravens look ahead to adding good players in the second and third rounds.
Morning take: The Ravens got three quality picks from the Denver Broncos, but they also passed on cornerback Kyle Wilson and defensive linemen Jared Odrick and Dan Williams. Time will tell if they made the right call.

Morning take: I have to pat myself on the back for nailing this pick way in advance. I held firm to the good information I was getting that Cincinnati was very interested in Gresham and tight ends in general, despite getting a ton of heat for weeks from Bengals followers.

  • The first day of the draft came and went without a trade of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Morning take: This means that "Big Ben" will remain on the team next season. I never got a strong sense he would be traded in the first place.

  • The Cleveland Browns' pick of cornerback Joe Haden raises some questions.
Morning take: After trying hard to get Sam Bradford and missing on Eric Berry, I just don't get the sense Haden was Plan A for Cleveland. Haden is a good player, but a surplus of corners on a struggling, rebuilding team doesn't fully add up.

Reviewing the mock drafts

April, 8, 2010
4/08/10
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NFL draft gurus Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay posted their latest mock drafts Insider on ESPN.com. With the 2010 draft exactly two weeks away, let's examine what they have in store for the AFC North.

Cleveland Browns (No. 7 overall)

Kiper's pick: Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State

McShay's pick: Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee

Analysis: Both Kiper and McShay whiffed on these two picks, in my opinion. Williams would be a significant reach for the Browns at No. 7, and Bryant is a player reportedly falling on most team’s draft boards because of inconsistent workout and character concerns. Teams that draft receivers with a top-10 pick often regret it. The Browns recently did that in 2005 with Braylon Edwards at No. 3, and I don't see new team president Mike Holmgren taking the same risk. Perhaps McShay was overreacting to Shaun Rogers' recent arrest at a Cleveland airport and figured the Browns need to take a big plugger immediately at No. 7 overall. But unless that defensive tackle's last name is "Suh" or "McCoy," I don't see that happening, either. Here are my options for the Browns at No. 7.

Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 18)

Kiper's pick: Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida

McShay's pick: Pouncey

Analysis: I'm having a hard time finding fault with most of the potential targets with Pittsburgh. If the Steelers get help on the interior offensive line by drafting Pouncey -- the top-rated center -- it makes sense. If they get an offensive tackle to help with the team's shaky pass protection and possibly move Willie Colon inside to guard, it makes sense. If Pittsburgh drafts a cornerback in the first round or a nose tackle to be the eventual successor to Casey Hampton, that makes sense, too. In general, I think the Steelers are very fortunate to hold a mid-round pick this year in an extremely deep draft. Ideally, I believe Florida cornerback Joe Haden would be the perfect fit for the Steelers. But he may not be available unless they move up a few spots.

Cincinnati Bengals (No. 21)

Kiper's pick: Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma

McShay's pick: Bryant

Analysis: Both Kiper and McShay are precise with these two picks. The Bengals need help in the passing game, and Gresham and Bryant are the two top-rated players at their respective positions. With Cincinnati thin at tight end, Gresham has the potential and ability to start for the Bengals in Week 1. Blocking is his biggest concern. After signing Antonio Bryant in free agency to a $28 million contract, receiver is no longer a desperate need for Cincinnati. But if Bryant falls into the Bengals' lap at No. 21, he would be a great value pick in this spot and perhaps too hard for Cincinnati to pass up.

Baltimore Ravens (No. 25)

Kiper's pick: Demaryius Thomas, WR, Georgia Tech

McShay's pick: Thomas

Analysis: After the blockbuster deal to land three-time Pro Bowl receiver Anquan Boldin, signing Donte' Stallworth and re-signing Derrick Mason, I just about scratched receiver off my list for Baltimore in the first round. There are several more immediate needs for the Ravens, such as cornerback, an extra pass rusher and tight end. But with that said, Thomas is a decent pick. He's a physical specimen whose stock fell a little because of a recent foot injury. Going to Baltimore would give him time to learn the NFL game and eventually grow with quarterback Joe Flacco.
Scouting can be harsh.

Instead of looking at what prospects do well, the process often puts a heavy emphasis on where players struggle.

I spent some time this week going through my 2010 draft guide from Pro Football Weekly, which is a highly respected publication with in-depth scouting reports. (The AFC North blog recommends it for draftniks.)

With that said, here are the negatives of 10 quality prospects being considered in the draft for the AFC North:

Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma

Interested teams: Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens

PFW negatives: "Makes some concentration drops. Is not explosive or sudden out of his breaks and tends to drift at the top of his stems. Shows some lower-body tightness and has difficulty adjusting to the low ball."

Aaron Hernandez, TE, Florida

Interested teams: Bengals, Ravens

PFW negatives: "Not physical and brings little value as a blocker. Has not run a full route tree. Struggles to sink his hips and separate against tight man coverage. Not strong or powerful after the catch."

Joe Haden, CB, Florida

Interested team: Cleveland Browns

PFW negatives: "Shows hesitation deciphering combination routes and too easily can be sucked up by underneath action. Jumps routes prematurely and leaves voids in coverage behind him. Inconsistent. Tackling is a work in progress."

Eric Berry, S, Tennessee

Interested team: Browns

PFW negatives: "Has some tightness in his hips and could stand to bulk up in order to better handle the constant pounding of the pro game. Leads with his shoulders seeking blow-up shots instead of wrapping up, and can do a better job of breaking down."

Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State

Interested team: Browns

PFW negatives: "Will drop some easily catchable balls. Not a crafty route runner. Mistimes some jumps. Could require some time to absorb a NFL playbook."

Arrelious Benn, WR, Illinois

Interested teams: Ravens, Bengals

PFW negatives: "Is not a blazer and was not asked to run a lot of vertical routes in college. Lacks elite agility and shows some rigidity in his movement. Does not have great leaping ability."

Golden Tate, WR, Notre Dame

Interested teams: Ravens, Bengals

PFW negatives: "Still developing as a route runner, rounds out some breaks. Will let balls into his body and drop some catchable passes. Can be tracked down from behind, lacks elite vertical speed."

Mike Iupati, OG, Idaho

Interested team: Pittsburgh Steelers

PFW negatives: "Too often reaches and grabs when trying to block on the second level. Footwork can use refinement, crosses his feet and cannot always recover from missteps. Can show better timing."

Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee

Interested team: Steelers

PFW negatives: "Lacks upper-body strength and needs to do a better job using his hands to play off blocks -- too often stays tied up. Not an inside rusher and cannot win with quickness.'

Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri

Interested team: Steelers

PFW negatives: "Stays hung up on blocks and can be engulfed. Will dip his head and miss some tackles. Struggles to navigate through traffic. Can be bounced around between the tackles."

Ouch!

I'm not sure I'd want any of these projected first-round picks after this beatdown.

Can we just skip to the second round (wink, wink)?

Draft Watch: AFC North

February, 17, 2010
2/17/10
12:00
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NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

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 team needs.

Baltimore Ravens

For years, adding an elite No. 1 receiver has been a major topic of discussion in Baltimore. This should be the year the Ravens finally make it happen. Baltimore will likely see what's available in free agency or the trade market at receiver. But look for Baltimore also to acquire fresh legs at receiver or tight end in the draft. This offseason should be mostly about helping budding quarterback Joe Flacco reach his full potential. The recent signing of Jim Zorn as quarterbacks coach also is a good step in that direction.

Although the defense is still one of the NFL's best, cornerback depth is needed.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals were a good team in 2009. But their inconsistent passing game prevented the reigning AFC North champs from being a great team, as Cincinnati was one-and-done in the playoffs. Outside of Pro Bowl receiver Chad Ochocinco, the Bengals had no reliable receivers or tight ends. So look for the Bengals to address both needs in the draft. The recent addition of free-agent receiver Matt Jones might fill a need if he stays out of trouble. There are also rumors of Terrell Owens being interested in Cincinnati, which would be a solid upgrade over Laveranues Coles. Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham also has been linked to the Bengals as a possible first-round option with the No. 21 overall pick.

Cleveland Browns

When your offense was ranked dead last and the defense finished 31st in the NFL last season, there are a lot of holes. New Browns president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert have a big project ahead of them. But 11 draft picks give the team a lot of flexibility to fill those needs.

The biggest question for Cleveland is at quarterback. Can the Browns find their long-term solution at the position or is Brady Quinn the answer? With a thin crop of quality rookie quarterbacks, Cleveland likely will explore trades or free agency. Other key positions like linebacker, safety and cornerback are also huge needs. Reportedly, the team is intrigued by University of Florida cornerback Joe Haden. Tennessee safety Eric Berry is another potential option in the secondary.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Just one year removed from winning a Super Bowl, the Steelers do not have a lot of major needs. But a 9-7 season exposed some weaknesses with Pittsburgh, and cornerback is probably the biggest. William Gay was not ready to make the jump to a full-time starter in 2009. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, there are not a lot of corners with first-round grades thus far, although that may change after the combine and individual workouts.

The status of Pro Bowl nose tackle and pending free agent Casey Hampton is another issue. The Steelers could use the franchise tag to keep Hampton for at least another year while they try to find a replacement. Defensive tackle Dan Williams from the University of Tennessee would be an enticing draft option in the first round. Depth on the offensive line is also needed.

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