AFC North: Dion Jordan

BEREA, Ohio -- For the second straight year, I will be at the Cleveland Browns headquarters for the NFL draft. There has been a lot of drama surrounding what the Browns will do at the No. 6 overall pick.

Will they trade up to take quarterback Geno Smith? Will they trade down with a team looking to move up for an offensive tackle? Could a pass-rusher like Dion Jordan or Ezekiel Ansah fall out of the top five? Or do the Browns take the best cornerback in the draft in Dee Milliner?

Here are the six popular picks for the Browns at No. 6:

Ezekiel Ansah, BYU outside linebacker: Gifted athlete who has potentially high ceiling. His inexperience and lack of durability are concerns.

Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame tight end: One of the fastest risers in this year's draft. The Browns have been connected to him because both coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner love to use the tight end.

Dion Jordan, Oregon outside linebacker: Has been compared to Jason Taylor. Shoulder surgery in February could sideline him for the start of training camp.

Dee Milliner, Alabama cornerback: Doesn't have any noticeable weakness in terms of coverage and run support. But he isn't considered a playmaker.

Barkevious Mingo, LSU outside linebacker: Explosive athlete who plays with power. Like Ansah, he's an unpolished player.

Geno Smith, West Virginia quarterback: Accurate passer with an NFL arm. There are concerns with his small hands and history of fumbling.

If those six weren't enough, there has been speculation that the Browns could take West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin, Alabama guard Chance Warmack and North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper. Did I leave anyone out?
Based on all of the speculation in the last 12 hours, it's apparent that no one knows what the Cleveland Browns will do in this draft. Talk spans from the Browns taking West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith to trading most of their picks to move up for BYU pass-rusher Ezekiel Ansah.

This has been an intriguing half-day of varying scenarios for a Browns team that many had pegged at staying at No. 6 and selecting Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner.

Here's a recap of some of the reports, speculation and prediction surrounding the Browns:
  • Multiple sources told Michael Silver of Yahoo Sports that the Browns could possibly trade up to the Oakland Raiders' No. 3 spot. Silver believes the Browns are targeting Ansah. To move up three places, the Browns would have to give up most of their remaining picks. Cleveland is already without a second-round pick because it selected wide receiver Josh Gordon last year in the supplemental draft. When asked at the NFL owners meeting last month if the Browns could trade up, owner Jimmy Haslam said, "I think that’s doubtful."
  • In their latest mock drafts Wednesday, NFL Network draft analyst and Sports Illustrated's Peter King both have the Browns taking Smith, the consensus No. 1 quarterback in the draft. "There are quarterbacks in this draft that are intriguing," chief executive officer Joe Banner said at last week's pre-draft news conference.
  • The Browns are "seriously considering" a trade for Dolphins wide receiver Davone Bess, according to The Chicago Sun-Times. It would likely be a middle-round pick for Bess, who caught 61 passes for 778 yards and one touchdown last season.

What would I do if I were the Browns? I would sit at No. 6 to see if Jordan falls. If Jordan is gone, I would try to trade down, especially if San Diego (No. 11) or Miami (No. 12) wants to move up to get an offensive tackle. If there was no viable trade and Jordan is off the board, the logical pick is Milliner despite the concern over the past surgeries (LSU pass-rusher Barkevious Mingo is also reportedly high on the Browns' list). In the end, the Browns need a cornerback and Milliner is the top-rated one.
The AFC North blog continues to look at the different positions and rank each team in terms of draft need. For Monday, the blog is addressing outside linebackers. Mel Kiper Jr.'s top five outside linebackers are: Oregon's Dion Jordan, LSU's Barkevious Mingo, Georgia's Jarvis Jones, Connecticut's Sio Moore and Kansas State's Arthur Brown. Kiper projects Jordan, Mingo and Jones to be 3-4 outside linebackers and considers Moore and Brown to be 4-3 outside linebackers.

Here are the rankings (based on need heading into the draft):

1. Pittsburgh Steelers: It's hard to believe the Steelers are content to go with Jason Worilds at outside linebacker. He hasn't lived up to expectations of being a 2010 second-round pick, recording 10 sacks and 82 tackles in 42 career games. It's easy to see why many have linked Jones to the Steelers. If he can remain healthy, Jones has the look of being another James Harrison-type pass-rusher for Pittsburgh. Pressuring the quarterback and generating turnovers have been problems for the Steelers' highly rated defense the past couple of seasons. The Steelers are hoping for a bounce-back year from LaMarr Woodley as well.

2. Cleveland Browns: The plan right now is to start Paul Kruger and Jabaal Sheard on the outside. While Kruger can get to the quarterback, there are questions whether he is a strong enough run defender to be an every-down linebacker. There are bigger concerns with Sheard, who didn't sound enthused at first to make the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker. The Browns might even think about trading Sheard. For that reason, Jordan and Mingo are considered targets in the first round for the Browns.

3. Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals may have been higher on this list if they hadn't signed Harrison to a two-year contract on Friday. Cincinnati has to decide whether it wants Vontaze Burfict or Rey Maualuga to play the other outside linebacker spot. The Bengals have average depth with Emmanuel Lamur and Vincent Rey. Beyond that, there are question marks with Dontay Moch, Aaron Maybin and Brandon Joiner. Cincinnati could add an outside linebacker in the middle rounds (like the team did with Moch) to develop behind Harrison, who is a short-term solution at this point in his career.

4. Baltimore Ravens: Outside linebacker is one area on the defense that appears to be set. The Ravens made their biggest splash in free agency when they signed Elvis Dumervil, who should deliver a strong one-two punch with Terrell Suggs. That is, if Suggs can bounce back from Achilles and biceps injuries from last season. Baltimore spent its top pick last season on Courtney Upshaw, who could see time in Dumervil's spot on early downs. Pernell McPhee, a defensive end for his first two seasons in the NFL, is going to move to rush linebacker as the top backup to Suggs.
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

What’s the ideal first-round scenario for each team?

Baltimore Ravens: California wide receiver Keenan Allen. Sure, the ideal scenario is Baltimore native Tavon Austin falling to the Ravens. That's just not realistic, given that he's expected to be taken in the top half of the first round. The Ravens desperately need a wide receiver after not replacing Anquan Boldin in free agency. Allen, who is the top-rated receiver on some teams' draft boards, would be a fine complement to the speedy Torrey Smith. He would have to slip past five potentially interested teams from picks Nos. 24 to 31 (Indianapolis, Minnesota, Houston, New England and San Francisco) in order for him to fall to Baltimore. Allen's strengths are size, toughness and sure hands in going over the middle. Sure sounds like Boldin, doesn't it?

Cincinnati Bengals: Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro. Finding a reliable starter next to Reggie Nelson in the back of the defense has been a challenge for the past couple of seasons. It's time for the Bengals to finally upgrade from Chris Crocker. Vaccaro is the consensus top-rated safety in the draft. He has the size to make an impact in run defense and the versatility to play man coverage. It's questionable whether Vaccaro will last until the Bengals are on the clock at No. 21. Vaccaro has been projected to go as early as No. 15 (New Orleans), No. 16 (St. Louis) or No. 17 (Pittsburgh). The big hurdle is Vaccaro getting past Dallas at No. 18. Some would say the Bengals need to get a right tackle, especially if Andre Smith is unsigned before the draft. But Cincinnati can plug in Anthony Collins in that spot. Safety is the bigger need.

Cleveland Browns: Oregon linebacker Dion Jordan or trading down. Some would say getting Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner at this spot is the ideal scenario for the Browns. While drafting a cornerback is a priority, I'm not sold on Milliner being worthy of a No. 6 overall pick, based on how draft experts break him down. The better scenario is having Jordan fall into Cleveland's laps. Jordan is a top-five talent who is a perfect fit in the Browns' new aggressive 3-4 defense. He could get taken as high as No. 2 overall by Jacksonville. Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly knows Jordan from their days at Oregon, so the Eagles may also be interested at No. 4. If Jordan is selected in the top five, the ideal scenario for Cleveland is trading down in the first round to acquire a second-round pick. The Chargers and Dolphins, both of whom are in need of a left tackle, should be interested in jumping ahead of Arizona at No. 7.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Having a choice between linebacker Jarvis Jones, Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson and Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert. These prospects are the most popular choices for the Steelers at No. 17. Which one is the ideal one? It depends on your point of view. Eifert is the safest pick and would provide insurance if Heath Miller (torn ACL) isn't the same player this season. The issue here is whether taking a tight end this high represents the best value. Jones is the biggest risk because of a poor performance at his pro day and the medical concerns, but he has the potential to be heir apparent to James Harrison. And Patterson is the wild card. He would provide much-needed height and length to the Steelers' wide receivers group and still has the speed to be an elite playmaker. The knock on Patterson is he's raw in his route-running and he disappeared for large chunks of time in college games. Patterson, Jones and Eifert all have a good shot at being there when the Steelers are on the clock.
It's been hours since the regular-season schedules were released (click on the team name to read the analysis posts on the Browns, Ravens, Steelers and Bengals). I do find it interesting the amount of trends that continue with the schedules. The Browns open at home for the 14th time in 15 seasons. The Ravens finish the regular season at the Bengals for the third straight time. And the Steelers have had a bye in Week 5 or earlier for the third time in four seasons. I'll continue our trend here on the blog with our usual wake-up call ...

RAVENS: Rex Ryan, the current head coach of the New York Jets and former longtime assistant with the Ravens, publicly chided the Orioles for not moving their Sept. 5 game so the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens could open the season at home. "I understand the Orioles are playing a game at home. Well, who really cares?" Ryan said in a conference call about the Jets schedule, via multiple reports including the Newark Star-Ledger. "You have a chance to have the defending world champs open the season at home where they rightfully should. I think that's unfortunate." Ryan added, "When they have 162 games, you might just have common courtesy and say, you know what, maybe I’ll play this one on the road or whatever.”

BENGALS: For the fourth time in their history and third time under coach Marvin Lewis, the Bengals open their home season in prime time when they play the Steelers on Monday night, Sept. 16 on ESPN. "We have had some great games against Pittsburgh the last few years, and the atmosphere should be tremendous," Lewis said, via the team's official website. "And of course I like having the last two at home, but we need to make sure we’re in position to capitalize on that edge.”

STEELERS: With no offers heading into Friday's deadline for restricted free agents, running back Isaac Redman signed his $1.323 million tender, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The Steelers' other restricted free-agent running back, Jonathan Dwyer, had previously signed his tender. Redman ran for 147 yards at the New York Giants last season but he failed to gain more than 43 yards in any other game.

BROWNS: Chief Executive Officer Joe Banner, who has a history of trading down when he was with the Philadelphia Eagles, said he's open to moving back from the No. 6 overall pick in the draft. "We have to make the right decision based on the value," Banner said at the pre-draft news conference, via The Plain Dealer. "If we think trading back or up produces better value for something we think is important or we rated high enough, we have to do it. If you made the priority filling in a hole that existed, you might not to get the fair market value you're looking for in a trade." Shameless plug: I recently endorsed the Browns trading back, unless Oregon linebacker Dion Jordan is sitting there.
ESPN draft experts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay held their first joint mock draft of the year, and the result proved surprising for the Cleveland Browns.

Picking for the Browns, Kiper selected a guard, but not the consensus top one in the draft. Kiper has Cleveland taking North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper with the No. 6 overall pick.

I don't like this selection for three reasons:

1. Oregon linebacker Dion Jordan was still on the board. If Jordan is there, the Browns have to grab him. He's a perfect fit for the Browns' new and aggressive 3-4 defense. Jordan is a top-five talent, and you can't pass him up if he falls.

2. Not a fan of taking a guard in the top half of the draft. Even if the guard is a big-time talent, other positions are simply more important. Plus, the Browns have bigger needs at cornerback, outside linebacker, tight end and safety than guard.

3. If you're going to take a guard, you should go for Alabama's Chance Warmack. He's experienced, durable and powerful. Warmack has been compared to perennial Pro Bowl lineman Will Shields. If the Browns are looking to upgrade at guard, it should be Warmack and not Cooper.

Here's the top five of the joint mock draft: 1. Kansas City (McShay), OT Luke Joeckel; 2. Jacksonville (Kiper), OT Eric Fisher; 3. Oakland (McShay), DE Ezekiel Ansah; 4. Philadelphia (Kiper), CB Dee Milliner; 5. Detroit (McShay), OT Lane Johnson.
ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. put together his Mock 4.0 Insider which looks a lot like his previous version in terms of the AFC North. The only change in the first-round picks is with the Baltimore Ravens, and Kiper still has them taking a safety. As always, you'll need an Insider subscription to see the entire post. But I can give you some of Kiper's predictions on the AFC North teams:

6. Cleveland Browns

Kiper's first-round pick: Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon

Kiper's second-round pick: No pick.

Hensley's comment: This remains a trendy pick even though the Browns signed Paul Kruger in free agency and plan to convert Jabaal Sheard to outside linebacker. Jordan would be the best player available at this spot. He has the makings of being a great 3-4 outside linebacker. Jordan is an explosive pass-rusher who has the athleticism to cover in space.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers

Kiper's first-round pick: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame

Kiper's second-round pick: Cornelius Washington, OLB, Georgia

Hensley's comment: Kiper feels that this would be a good fit for the Steelers. Pittsburgh does need a backup plan for Heath Miller because his status for the early part 2013 is uncertain after tearing his ACL in the second-to-last game of the regular season. Miller's salary jumps to $6 million in 2014, the final year of his contract. It's debatable whether taking a tight end at this point is too high.

21. Cincinnati Bengals

Kiper's first-round pick: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia

Kiper's second-round pick (from Oakland): Shamarko Thomas, S, Syracuse

Kiper's second-round pick: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State

Hensley's comment: This pick only makes sense if the Bengals are taking the best player available. The Bengals already have a decision at middle linebacker with Vontaze Burfict and Rey Maualuga. So, I can't see the Bengals targeting another inside linebacker. Ogletree is going to be an impact player, but the Bengals have bigger needs to address like safety, outside linebacker and right tackle.

32. Baltimore Ravens

Kiper's first-round pick: John Cyprien, S, Florida International

Kiper's second-round pick: Terron Armstead, OT, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

Hensley's comment: Kiper still has the Ravens taking a safety, but he had them selecting Florida's Matt Elam in his previous mock draft. Cyprien already has the look of an NFL safety and is an aggressive tackler. He'll play like a strong safety but he is effective in playing Cover 2. As I've said before, teams often find great value at this position late in the first round.
The Browns signed quarterback Jason Campbell to compete with Brandon Weeden for the starting job (a good move for Cleveland) and Ravens receiver-returner Jacoby Jones advanced past the first round in "Dancing With The Stars." You can say that it wasn't a typical Tuesday night for the AFC North blog. If you're not in the mood to chat about contemporary jazz moves, you'll be happy to move to the wake-up call ...

RAVENS: Raiders free-agent safety Michael Huff is scheduled to visit Baltimore later this week, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Huff visited Dallas on Monday but left without an offer from the cap-strapped Cowboys. The Ravens are looking for a replacement for Ed Reed, who signed with Houston last week, and team officials were impressed with Huff coming out of college. If Huff doesn't get a deal done with Baltimore, he'll head to Green Bay for a visit.

BENGALS: Based on the recent offensive-tackle signings, Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer projects Andre Smith will sign a four-year deal in the $26 to $27 million range that includes between $7 million to $8 million in guaranteed money. Smith was reportedly looking for a deal that averaged $9 million per season. But he won't get that type of money now that the first wave of free agency is over. No one expected Smith to last this long on the open market.

STEELERS: Giants free-agent running back Ahmad Bradshaw is scheduled to visit the Steelers on Wednesday, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. Bradshaw, 27, has been waiting to take a physical with teams because he had surgery to replace a screw in his right foot in late January. He told ESPN Radio that the Packers and Jets are also interested in him. The Steelers can't offer much because they're $2.5 million under the salary cap, but running backs are generally among the cheapest positions in free agency.

BROWNS: Oregon outside linebacker Dion Jordan and Oklahoma wide receiver Kenny Stills are among the prospects who have pre-draft visits lined up with the Browns, according to the Akron Beacon Journal. Jordan is considered a top-five prospect in the draft, and Stills is projected to go in the third or fourth round. Also, Arizona quarterback Matt Scott is set to visit the Browns in early April, the paper reported. Scott is expected to go in the fifth round or later.
ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. put together his Mock 3.0 Insider which is a lot different than his previous version. As always, you'll need an Insider subscription to see the entire post. But I can give you some of Kiper's predictions on the AFC North teams:

6. Cleveland Browns

Kiper's pick: Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon

Hensley's comment: This has become the trendy pick for the Browns, and it does make a lot of sense. He has the makings of being a great 3-4 outside linebacker. Jordan is an explosive pass rusher who has the athleticism to cover in space. The Browns' need for an outside linebacker would diminish if they sign Paul Kruger or Cliff Avril in free agency.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers

Kiper's pick: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame

Hensley's comment: This one caught me a little off guard. The Steelers do need a backup plan for Heath Miller because his status for 2013 is uncertain after tearing his ACL in the second-to-last game of the regular season. But taking a tight end with the 17th overall pick seems high. I'm still thinking Steelers go defense in the first round.

21. Cincinnati Bengals

Kiper's pick: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia

Hensley's comment: Ogletree is going to be an impact player, so it's hard to argue with this pick. I'm just not sure if Ogletree is a player that Cincinnati is targeting. If the Bengals want to move Vontaze Burfict inside, they'll be looking for an outside linebacker and not an inside one like Ogletree. Also, if the Bengals don't sign a starting-caliber right tackle in free agency, that spot becomes a priority in the draft.

32. Baltimore Ravens

Kiper's pick: Matt Elam, S, Florida

Hensley's comment: This pick is an extremely logical one, especially if the Ravens lose Ed Reed in free agency. Elam has good instincts and coverage skills. He can make plays close to the line of scrimmage or playing center field. Elam's reputation as a big hitter fits perfectly with the Ravens defense. Teams often find great value at this position late in the first round.
ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay put together his Mock 3.0 Insider. As always, you'll need an Insider subscription to see the entire post. But I have received permission to share with you some details about the teams in the division:

6. Cleveland Browns

McShay's pick: Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon

Hensley's comment: Jordan is a good fit for the Browns' 3-4 defense and is the best outside linebacker prospect based on versatility. He is athletic enough to rush the passer and cover tight ends. Jordan's also a high-puruit run defender with a relentless motor. There is a medical concern with Jordan, who could be out for another couple of months after having shoulder surgery.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers

McShay's pick: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia

Hensley's comment: Jones would be a top-five pick if not for his medical condition (a narrowing of the spinal column). If he did drop, it would be hard for the Steelers to pass on him. Jones has the makings of being the heir apparent to James Harrison.

21. Cincinnati Bengals

McShay's pick: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama

Hensley's comment: This would be fitting for the Bengals, who would replace one Alabama tackle (Andre Smith) with another. He's even drawn comparisons to Smith, who didn't receive the franchise tag from the Bengals. Fluker is a powerful run blocker who has had trouble with speed rushers in pass protection.

32. Baltimore Ravens

McShay's pick: Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame

Hensley's comment: Based on coach John Harbaugh's reaction to Te'o's disappointing 40-yard dash, I'm not sure if he would be happy with this choice. Inside linebacker, however, is a big need for the Ravens. Baltimore also has a history of putting more weight on what a player does on game tape over results at the combine. This pick would generate a lot of buzz for the reigning Super Bowl champions.

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