AFC North: Eben Britton
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
In what should be an interesting weekend, here are some of the top AFC North story lines to watch in this year's NFL draft:
1. The Cleveland Browns end speculation.
New head coach Eric Mangini has run such a tight ship in Cleveland that there have been more rumors surrounding the team than ever before. Reports from the Browns have been all over the map in terms of their intentions and potential trades. Now it is finally time to unveil their plan for the 2009 draft. Barring a trade, Cleveland will pick fifth overall.
2. Can the Cincinnati Bengals close the gap?
With so much attention put on the Browns this offseason, it is sometimes easy to forget that Cincinnati has 11 picks, including No. 6 overall. This gives the Bengals tremendous flexibility and a great chance to improve their prospects for 2009. With the return of former Pro Bowl quarterback Carson Palmer, there is early optimism in the Queen City. A solid draft would add to those good vibes.
With just six picks this year, Baltimore needs to make sure it takes care of its young, up-and-coming quarterback. This can come in the form of a new receiver (Darrius Heyward-Bey, Hakeem Nicks), a tight end (Brandon Pettigrew), or a right tackle (Michael Oher, Eben Britton). Either way this draft, in part, should be about making sure Flacco has as many weapons around him as possible to prevent a sophomore slump. Baltimore could also use help in a few spots on the defense, such as inside linebacker, but Flacco needs a lot more help in his development than, say, safety Ed Reed and linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs.
4. Will the Pittsburgh Steelers really make nine picks?
I find it hard to believe that nine rookies could make the final roster of the defending Super Bowl champions this season. Therefore, the Steelers may do some wheeling and dealing this weekend to get quality over quantity. Pittsburgh lost just one starter from last year (cornerback Bryant McFadden), and the team at this point is pretty close to the salary cap. So the fewer inexperienced players the Steelers bring in this year, the better. I wouldn't be surprised if Pittsburgh moves up more than once this weekend and drafts approximately six players. That's probably the maximum amount of rookies who could make the team out of training camp.