- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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The AFC North blog is wrapping up team draft needs with safety, the one position that is a need for every team in the division. There are scenarios in which the Cincinnati Bengals, the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers take one as early as the first round.
Mel Kiper Jr's top five safeties in this draft class are: Texas' Kenny Vaccaro, Florida International's John Cyprien, Florida's Matt Elam, Syracuse's Shamarko Thomas and Georgia Southern's J.J. Wilcox.
Here are the rankings (the greater the need, the higher the ranking):
1. Cincinnati Bengals: Considering the handful of good safeties in this draft, it would be a disappointment if the Bengals failed to land a starter with three picks in the first two rounds. There's no excuse to rely on Chris Crocker, Taylor Mays or Jeromy Miles. The Bengals had a private workout Monday with Cyprien, who could be one of the top options for Cincinnati at No. 21.
2. Cleveland Browns: The Browns released Usama Young, last year's starting free safety, earlier this month. Tashaun Gipson and Eric Hagg would compete for the spot if the Browns don't address it in the draft. In other words, the Browns would like to address safety in the draft. The problem is, the Browns have just one of the first 67 picks in the draft and they have multiple needs. Even though it's a need, Cleveland might not be able to land a starter in this draft.
3. Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens parted ways with both starting safeties from the Super Bowl. Ed Reed signed with the Houston Texans in free agency, and Bernard Pollard signed with the Tennessee Titans after being cut. The Ravens addressed one starting spot by signing Michael Huff and added a stopgap by keeping James Ihedigbo. But Baltimore would prefer to upgrade from Ihedigbo, a one-year starter for the Patriots who started three games for the Ravens last season. The Ravens have been linked to the likes of Elam, Cyprien and LSU's Eric Reid.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers are likely the only team who will start the same two safeties from a year ago. But that doesn't mean the Steelers will ignore the safety position in the draft. Troy Polamalu, a seven-time Pro Bowl player, is 32 and has only played one full season in the past four years. Ryan Clark turns 34 during the season and is entering the final year of his contract. Plus, the Steelers lost their two top backups, Will Allen and Ryan Mundy, in free agency. The Steelers will have to consider Vaccaro if he somehow falls to them at No. 17.