AFC North: Jimmy Clausen

AFC North weekend mailbag

February, 26, 2012
It's never a good Sunday when it's Sunday without football games. But it does give us time to open some mail ...

Todd from Vallejo, Calif., writes: My question relates to the Bengals draft picks. By all accounts, the players they want to select (guard David DeCastro, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, running back Trent Richardson, etc.) will all be gone by picks 17 and 21. I have a hard time seeing them reach for a running back with those picks or even a lesser guard (like Cordy Glenn) or risky corner (Janoris Jenkins). What do you think they will do? Trade up or down?

Jamison Hensley, from AFC North headquarters, responds: The Bengals are more likely to trade down, especially at No. 21. It seems like every draft there is some team wanting to jump back into the bottom part of the first round to get a quarterback. Since the Bengals have Andy Dalton, they would be happy to drop back and acquire more picks. The only player that I could envision the Bengals trading up for is Alabama running back Trent Richardson. Cincinnati wouldn't mortgage the entire draft for Richardson, but it would be willing to move up a few spots if he surprisingly falls out of the top 10. Of course, I would be extremely surprised to see Richardson slip that far.

Abe from Baltimore writes: Don't you think the Ravens will be better suited going for Pierre Garcon, Mario Manningham, or Robert Meachem rather than breaking the bank for any of these big-name wide receivers?

Jamison Hensley, from AFC North headquarters, responds: The Ravens don't have the salary-cap room to go after a wide receiver like Vincent Jackson. As I wrote last week, the best fit is the Colts' Reggie Wayne, whose value will be lowered by the number of young deep threats available in free agency. If Wayne proves to be too expensive, the Ravens still need to add a free-agent wide receiver because Lee Evans was a flop and Tandon Doss apparently isn't ready to get on the field. Baltimore only had two wide receivers with more than four catches, so the Ravens have to upgrade here.

Ben from Pensacola, Fla., writes: Even if Robert Griffin III is every bit as good as Cam Newton, there's no way he'd have that kind of success in Cleveland. Newton was throwing to a pair of good tight ends and Steve Smith, with a nice running back tandem of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. RG3 comes into an offense with no running game and, frankly, a terrible group of receivers and tight ends. I understand Colt McCoy probably isn't getting the most out of the players around him, but even Tom Brady would have a hard time scoring points for the Browns. The Browns need a lot more than a new quarterback to be even solid on offense.

Jamison Hensley, from AFC North headquarters, responds: I understand your argument for a lack of playmakers, but you can't downplay the fact that a franchise quarterback elevates the talent around him. That's why Cam Newton had more success with this supporting cast than Jake Delhomme, Jimmy Clausen and Matt Moore. There's no doubt that the Browns have to significantly improve the players at the skill positions. But McCoy isn't a quarterback who gets the most out of his teammates. I'm not saying RG3 will do this. I'm just saying the Browns have to look elsewhere because McCoy isn't the answer.

Jared from Orlando, Fla., writes: Do you think that Heath Miller will ever get to the Pro Bowl again? Granted the one time he made it, it was because one of the tight ends chosen was in the Super Bowl that year. I'm extremely biased as a Steeler fan who grew up in the same town as Heath. However, it seems like the only tight ends to make the pro bowl are pass catchers. Heath has great hands, but he's at least top three in the league as a blocking tight end. Thoughts?

Jamison Hensley, from AFC North headquarters, responds: Miller has been underused the past two seasons, especially in the red zone. But he won't get to another Pro Bowl because he's on the decline. Over the next couple of drafts, the Steelers have to take a look at adding an athletic pass-catching tight end like Cincinnati's Jermaine Gresham and Baltimore's Ed Dickson. That's the direction the NFL is headed, and Pittsburgh is going to be forced to fill the void there sooner than later. Miller is entering the final year of his contract.

Cameron from Cincinnati writes: If the Bengals are going to get a guard and a cornerback with their first two picks, which looks likely, what position do they address next? Running back, or wide receiver?

Jamison Hensley, from AFC North headquarters, responds: Running back comes next in the draft, and wide receiver is among the priorities in free agency. The Bengals need to get younger and faster at running back. That means the draft is the best way to address the position. As far as wide receiver, Cincinnati needs a dependable route-runner as the second option to A.J. Green. The Bengals can find one in free agency.

Gene from San Diego writes: What's more important in the draft for the Ravens: an outside linebacker opposite [Terrell] Suggs, an inside linebacker for the future or a center?

Jamison Hensley, from AFC North headquarters, responds: In order of priority, I would go inside linebacker, center and outside linebacker. It wouldn't be a surprise to see others rank these differently because it's a tough call. I put inside linebacker first because this is the time to find that heir apparent to Ray Lewis, so the rookie can learn under the future Hall of Fame linebacker. The Ravens can get by this year with Matt Birk at center and Paul Kruger at outside linebacker.

Sean from Van Wert, Ohio, writes: I know that Cleveland needs help at receiver. With all the big names out there, we should worry about overspending. Which is why, I keep bringing up Pierre Garcon. He would be a great fit for Cleveland's West Coast offense, and we could get him for less than DeSean Jackson or any of the other big names wide receivers. I believe we could land Garcon around the $13-15 million range over three to five years. What are your thoughts on Garcon landing in Cleveland?

Jamison Hensley, from AFC North headquarters, responds: I put Garcon on the top of my list in terms of the best fit for Cleveland. The reason? Garcon provides what the Browns desperately need at wide receiver -- speed. He showed he can stretch the field, and he proved that he doesn't need an elite quarterback to do so after Peyton Manning was sidelined all season.

DJ from Brockport, N.Y., writes: Have the Browns actually shown interest in Robert Griffin III or is it all rumors and assumptions at this point?

Jamison Hensley, from AFC North headquarters, responds: Browns officials met with RG3 for a 15-minute interview on Friday night. But it doesn't take a top analyst like Trent Dilfer to answer this question. The Browns need to upgrade at quarterback, and RG3 will be top quarterback available after Andrew Luck gets drafted by the Colts. Cleveland officials don't have to draft RG3, but they do have to consider it.

John from Medon, Tenn., writes: With Rashard Mendenhall's injury, could you see the Steelers potentially having an interest in Peyton Hillis? I know they don't spend much in free agency, but Hillis could possibly be had at a decent price after a bad year. Hillis' hit-the-hole-hard style would actually be a better fit than Mendenhall's constant hesitation at the line of scrimmage. Hillis in a Steeler uniform would be very intriguing.

Jamison Hensley, from AFC North headquarters, responds: The Steelers aren't going to make many free-agent signings because of their limited cap space. So it would surprise me if they chose to use that precious cap room on a player who struggled on the field for most of the season, got hurt and became a malcontent in the locker room. I believe the Steelers need to address running back in free agency, but it would be out of character for Pittsburgh to pursue Hillis.

Michael from Cleveland writes: How crazy is it to think the Colts will draft Robert Griffin III and the Browns move up to draft Andrew Luck?

Jamison Hensley, from AFC North headquarters, responds: This is beyond crazy. Actually, this is the very definition of fantasy football for Browns fans.

Walker's weekend mailbag

December, 18, 2010
Let's dig into the weekend mailbag.

Bengals fan from Sardinia, Ohio, writes: With Brett Favre retiring and Tarvaris Jackson in his last year, do you think the Minnesota Vikings would be willing to trade for Carson Palmer? If so what kind of compensation do you think they would get?

Walker: The trade market for Palmer is going to be interesting because he makes $11.5 million next year. Any team willing to trade for Palmer has to pay him like an elite quarterback when that's no longer the case. The AFC North blog reported Saturday that Palmer would not accept a pay cut this offseason to stay with the rebuilding Bengals (2-11). That could increase Palmer's chances of a trade or release from Cincinnati. But the Bengals also have to be careful. If word gets out that Cincinnati is willing to release Palmer to avoid paying that high salary, teams could simply wait for the quarterback to become available and negotiate a lower salary as a free agent. That way teams won't give the Bengals any compensation.

Hank from Westbrook, ME, writes: Do you see the Bengals giving Bernard Scott more playing time in the last three games?

Walker: Scott only got four carries last week, so it's hard to say. But I agree the Bengals should use Scott more down the stretch. In all likelihood, starting running back Cedric Benson will not return to Cincinnati. I'm not sure Scott can be a feature back, but the Bengals need to find out what his strengths are. Scott is averaging 4.8 yards per carry this season.

Jon Teams from Barboursville, W.Va., writes: What is the deal with Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians? Why has he not tried to utilize the run more?

Walker: It's a combination of having various injuries on the offensive line and having quarterback Ben Roethlisberger back under center. Pittsburgh ran the ball best when it had to. For the first month of the season, tailback Rashard Mendenhall was the only consistent offensive threat the team had. The Steelers were also healthy up front. Now the entire playbook is available with Roethlisberger and they pass a lot more, and the offensive line isn't healthy and blocking as well.

Peter from Virginia writes: Which offense is in more disarray at this point: Steelers or New York Jets?

Walker: The Steelers are having offensive line issues and the Jets are having quarterback issues. Both can really stall an offense. But it's harder to overcome poor quarterback play. So I would say the Jets have bigger issues at the moment.

Will from Alexandria, Va., writes: What do you think about the Steelers' chances in the playoffs? Do you think they can beat the New England Patriots?

Walker: I think the Steelers' chances are much better if they don't play the Patriots. Otherwise, the Steelers have as good a chance as anyone if they can get healthy.

Adam Gardner from Bel Air, Md., writes: Do you think Joe Flacco will ever become the Ravens' team leader, call audibles, and be up there with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady?

Walker: I never understood the expectations for Flacco to become Manning or Brady, who are two future Hall of Famers. I think Flacco is doing fine at this stage of his career. He has three playoff wins and is having a solid third season statistically. Ray Lewis is the leader of the Ravens, and that won't change until he retires. Flacco, for now, can just play well down the stretch and lead by example.

Brandon Crawford from Sykesville, Md., writes: With the Ravens really struggling on the offensive line, how much of this can you contribute to the loss of offensive tackle Jared Gaither?

Walker: That's a good question, Brandon. I almost forgot about Gaither, because he hasn't been available to the team all season. Gaither can be solid when he wants to be and could've helped Baltimore this year. But too often the Ravens had to stay on top of Gaither, and that gets tiring for an organization. He lost too much weight in the offseason and subsequently got hurt, and I think that was the final straw. Gaither is no longer a good fit with Baltimore, and I don't expect him to return next year.

B. Susi from Orlando, Fla., writes: I know you like the Troy Reed and now the Heath Heap mash-up. But what about the terror that would be James Lewis? Now THAT would be a terrifying linebacker.

Walker: Wow, B. Susi. That's an automatic Hall of Famer. The only weakness I can think of would be...long snapping???

Troy Reed from Walkerville, AFCN, writes: Okay, I will admit it: Troy Polamalu is better than both me and Ed Reed.

Walker: What?!? No way. Please read this tweet explaining your greatness. Neither Polamalu nor Reed could do that alone. Only you can, Troy Reed. You're the best safety in NFL history!

Matt writes: Can you please comment on Brian Daboll and his status as the Cleveland Browns' offensive coordinator?

Walker: Sure, Matt. Daboll is in major trouble. A lot has been written about Eric Mangini's future because he's the head coach. But I think the verdict is pretty much in on Daboll. The offense hasn't made any progress in two years, and it has to be driving offensive guru and Browns president Mike Holmgren crazy. I think Cleveland's failure to develop second-round picks Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie also reflects poorly on Daboll.

Becky from Galloway, Ohio, writes: I was wondering why in December the "Battle for Ohio" between the Bengals vs. Browns couldn’t be played in The Shoe [at Ohio State]. It would be a sellout. Even if OSU got a million both teams would still make a tidy sum. I work with a number of Bengals and Browns fans. and we would all go no matter cost of tickets.

Walker: Interesting idea, Becky. But there are a couple of issues I see with this from the NFL's perspective. For starters, one team would be losing a home game every year. Would it be fair for the Browns or Bengals to play just seven annual home games and one at a neutral site, while other teams get eight? Also, home teams make a lot of money off concessions, parking and other things during the game-day experience. That's not something the Browns or Bengals would want to give up to Ohio State.

Comment and complaint department

Ken from Long Beach, Calif., writes: As terrible as the Oakland Raiders have been the past few seasons I would gladly trade ownership with them. Living in L.A. I have seen the freak show that is Al Davis, but one thing remains certain about him; he wants to win. I am not sure I can say that about Mike Brown. I love my Bengals but I can't wait for L.A. to get a team so I can file my fan free agency and get the heck out of Mike Brown's land of despair.

Jacob from Cincy writes: I watched DeSean Jackson take a 10-yard pass 91 yards to the house, I thought back to how we passed him up in the draft and how the guy we passed him up for has been inactive all season. Where would the Bengals be if they drafted Jackson over Jerome Simpson?

Walker: Jacob, Simpson would probably play like Jackson in Philly and Jackson would be a bust in Cincy. Just kidding. It would have made a big difference in Cincinnati's offense. Ken, so many Bengals fans are at the end of their rope. I've held firm in saying it's good fandom to stick with your team. The Bengals haven't had back-to-back winning seasons in 28 years. Why leave now?

Joe from Cincinnati writes: "Cleveland Browns (5-8) at Cincinnati Bengals (2-11), Sunday at 1 p.m. Blasik's comment: The Bengals have better personnel than the Browns, and Colt McCoy will be a little rusty coming back. As much as I love to see the Bungles lose, this streak has to end sometime, right? Walker's score: Bengals, 17-16" -- I feel all Bengals fans knew, or at least had a sneaking suspicion, that you hate the Bengals and were extremely biased against them. But your stating how much you love to see them lose makes it woefully apparent.

Walker: Joe, when did I change my name to Amanda Blasik? We had a guest predict games this week. Please read the blog again. Also, for those who think I'm too harsh on the Bengals, read last year's coverage. For those who think I'm a Bengals homer, read this year's coverage.

David from Fontainebleau, France, writes: I think it is incredibly unlikely that the Panthers take Stanford QB Andrew Luck with the No. 1 pick of the draft as you suggested they would. They just picked Jimmy Clausen and Tony Pike this year. Three picks on the QB position in two drafts? I don't see it happening.

Walker: David, it's probably too early to predict the top of the draft board, but keep in mind that Clausen was a second-rounder and Pike was a sixth-rounder. Clausen hasn't showed anything for the 1-12 Panthers to get a vote of confidence for next year. Carolina also will have a new coaching staff in 2011 that's not tied to these draft picks, and a new coach always has the tendency to bring in his own players. I wouldn't rule it out.

Barry Veet from Hazleton, Pa., writes: Just wanted to tell you in my fantasy football playoffs this week I was down 61 points with only Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson left. I came back and was up 1.6 points until Schaub threw that INT in OT. Talk about an unbelievable heartbreak, losing by .4 after an improbable comeback.

Walker: Tough way to end your season, Barry. I assume Ravens cornerback Josh Wilson probably isn't your favorite player.

Will from Nashville, Tenn., writes: Hey, James. Thanks for not posting that comment comparing the Bengals and the Heat until after the Heat went on a seven-game winning streak and making me look like a fool for the question. At 9-8 when I did post the comment, the Heat were a little more disappointing and it maybe would have drawn a little better comparison to the Bengals. Way to show some respect to a loyal reader.

Walker: You are correct, Will, and my apologies. We get a lot of questions in our inbox and sometimes we can't always get to them immediately. By the time I got to yours, it was outdated.

AFC North Homer of the Week

We didn't have a strong batch of homer comments this week (good job, everyone). So we had to dig deep and find one of the runners-up from last week.


Andy from Canada writes: Hey, James. Longtime reader and much respect. I am driving down to Buffalo regardless of weather for the game this weekend and Peyton Hillis will break 200 yards rushing. Post me if I'm right, and post me if I'm wrong. I have faith. Thanks.

Walker: Andy, Hillis did get 108 rushing yards. But I'm sure you didn't anticipate his three fumbles. Nonetheless, Hillis is having a great year.

If you have any additional questions, comments or complaints, please send them to our AFC North inbox.

Wrap-up: Bengals 20, Panthers 7

September, 26, 2010
Here are some thoughts on the Cincinnati Bengals' 20-7 win against the Carolina Panthers:

What it means: The Bengals showed maturity and took care of business against a lesser opponent on the road. Cincinnati has dominated the AFC North recently but struggled outside of the division. So every win outside of the AFC North demonstrates growth by the team.

What I liked: Cincinnati's defense showed up for the second straight week, holding Carolina (0-3) to just seven points. Rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen made his first NFL start and finished with 188 yards and one interception. After getting throttled by the New England Patriots, the Bengals have allowed just 17 points combined in the past two games.

What I didn't like: Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer continued his slow start by throwing for 195 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Palmer has a lot of new weapons in the passing game this year, so there is no excuse for him not to produce, particularly when he's turning over the football. Palmer's passer ratings in the first three games this season have gone from 92.5 to 60.1 to 53.3 against the Panthers.

What's next: The Bengals will play their second division game of the season when they travel next week to play the Cleveland Browns (0-3). Cincinnati swept the Browns in two games last season. The Bengals improved to 2-1 and remain one game behind the Pittsburgh Steelers (3-0) in a competitive AFC North division.

Morning take: Tomlin vs. Morris

September, 26, 2010
Here are the most interesting stories Sunday in the AFC North: Morning take: Tomlin and Morris spent time coming up together as young assistants in Tampa. Each coach has to be proud of the other for the great job they're doing this season.
Morning take: This will mark Jimmy Clausen's first NFL start for the Panthers. The Bengals will look to rattle an opposing quarterback for the second straight week.
Morning take: Starting the season with two road games is tough, and that's certainly been the case for Flacco. I expect a bounce-back game from the third-year quarterback.
Morning take: Odds do not look good. The Browns were double-digit underdogs entering the week and recent scratches Shaun Rogers and Brian Robiskie do not help.

Final Word: AFC North

September, 24, 2010
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 3:

[+] EnlargeJoe Flacco
Rich Kane/Icon SMIJoe Flacco is looking to rebound against the Browns after a poor start to the season.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco needs a solid outing Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. The third-year player had the worst performance of his career, throwing a career-high four interceptions in last week's loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Flacco's didn't look comfortable and was pressing, particularly in the second half. He's off to a very slow start, throwing for 402 yards, one touchdown and five interceptions in Baltimore's first two games. Flacco's passer rating is 41.2.

A key reason Baltimore's defense hasn't allowed a touchdown is its ability to dominate on third down. In two games, the Ravens have held opponents to 4-for-29 (14 percent) on third-down conversions. That stuffs drives, helps Baltimore with field position, and gets the ball back in the hands of the offense.

One of the major issues with Cleveland's offense is its two starting receivers -- Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi -- cannot get open. Neither of the Browns' 2009 second-round picks has been fast enough nor experienced enough to shake free of coverage in the first two games. Robiskie and Massaquoi have been targeted 19 times and only produced five receptions combined this season. Backup Josh Cribbs has been the team's most explosive receiver. He caught a 65-yard touchdown reception last week in a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Tight ends Benjamin Watson and Evan Moore have also made plays.

When the Pittsburgh Steelers travel to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they must be wary of the warm weather. Tampa can be a hot place to play football this time of year. The temperature is expected to hover around the high-80s and lower-90s Sunday. There is also a 50 percent chance of rain. Browns Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas told me after Cleveland's Week 1 loss to Tampa that it felt like it was 100 degrees on the field. AFC North teams aren't used to this kind of heat.

After facing two solid quarterbacks in Tom Brady and Flacco to start the season, the Cincinnati Bengals catch a break Sunday with Carolina Panthers rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen getting his first career start. The Bengals were relentless on defense last week and rattled Flacco. There's a good chance Cincinnati and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer can do the same against Clausen. The Notre Dame product threw for 59 yards and an interception in relief against Tampa Bay last week.

Morning take: Charlie Batch to start?

September, 21, 2010
Here are the most interesting stories Tuesday in the AFC North:
  • With two quarterbacks injured and one serving a suspension, Charlie Batch could be the only option for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Morning take: Byron Leftwich (knee) will do all he can to get healthy before Sunday. But if a game was played today, Batch would get the call.
  • Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh gave quarterback Joe Flacco a vote of confidence after throwing four interceptions against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Morning take: Every quarterback has a horrible game, but it's way too early to push the panic button. I anticipate Flacco and Baltimore's offense to bounce back in a major way against the Cleveland Browns.
Morning take: Mangini needs to do something fast to fix this sinking ship. But the Browns lack so much talent that playing their second-team players probably won't help.
  • Carolina Panthers rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen will make his first career start against the Bengals.
Morning take: If Cincinnati can baffle Flacco, it should easliy handle Clausen on Sunday.

Video: Breaking down QB battles

June, 23, 2010

Mike Golic and Cris Carter break down the QB battles around the NFL.
The NFL draft is just getting started after an interesting first round concluded Thursday.

But the next several rounds are where the good teams make their mark by finding quality players. The AFC North is expected to be a close, multi-team race this season, and every team still has needs to fill.

With that said, here are seven potential prospects to watch Friday:

Golden Tate, WR, Notre Dame

Possible fits: Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens

Skinny: Tate would be off the board if he had prototypical size. He's a very productive player who is physical after the catch. He should fit well in the AFC North.

Taylor Mays, S, USC

Possible fits: Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns

Skinny: Mays has great physical skills but didn't produce to those abilities. The Bengals and Browns are both looking at safeties at this point in the draft, and Mays is the top prospect at the position on the board.

Arrelious Benn, WR, Illinois

Possible fits: Ravens, Bengals, Browns

Skinny: Benn is another player who doesn't have prototypical size but could fit well in the division. He could be a great addition to just about any AFC North offense.

Terrence Cody, DT, Alabama

Possible fits: Ravens, Steelers

Skinny: In this division, you need as many good defensive linemen as possible. Cody is a quality talent with weight concerns. But in the second round he may be worth the risk.

Brian Price, DT, UCLA

Possible fits: Ravens, Bengals, Browns

Skinny: Similar to Cody, getting as many big players in the trenches is always a good idea. Every AFC North team could use depth on the defensive line, and Price could be a solid addition for anyone's rotation.

Bruce Campbell, OT, Maryland

Possible fits: Steelers, Browns

Skinny: Campbell was a projected first-round pick but he's a bit raw. If coached up properly, he could turn out to be one of the steals of this draft.

Rob Gronkowski

Possible fits: Ravens, Browns

Skinny: "Big Gronk" is one of the few tight ends in the draft that is physical at the point of attack and a solid threat in the passing game. But he does have injury concerns.

Also keep in mind that quarterbacks Colt McCoy and Jimmy Clausen are two targets for the Browns, as well. We left the pair off the list, because we covered a lot of ground with them earlier on Friday.

Will Browns draft Clausen or McCoy?

April, 23, 2010
Jimmy Clausen/Colt McCoyUS PresswireCould Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen, left, or Texas' Colt McCoy be available when the Browns are on the clock in the second round?
It's no secret that the Cleveland Browns are searching for their long-term solution at quarterback.

So could Jimmy Clausen or Colt McCoy be the answer?

Cleveland patiently watched the draft board fall heavily in its favor Thursday night as two of the top-rated quarterbacks of this year's class landed into second round. The Denver Broncos’ surprising selection of Tim Tebow sent shockwaves throughout the NFL and perhaps sparked some celebration in the Browns' draft room.

Now Clausen and McCoy are there for the taking in Friday's second round, where Cleveland owns the sixth pick (No. 38 overall). The Browns have a legitimate chance to land either player and it would be hard to argue the type of value they'd get in return. Either prospect could sit a year in Cleveland and has the luxury to learn behind starter Jake Delhomme.

Clausen was projected by many to be a top-20 pick, while McCoy remains in his projected range of early in the second round. Cleveland president Mike Holmgren initially said he wasn't as impressed with Clausen as he'd like to be, although he somewhat backed off those statements recently. But Holmgren is in line with a lot of teams that weren't completely sold on the former Notre Dame star -- at least as a first-round pick.

McCoy is a player the Browns liked all along. He has tremendous accuracy and seems to be a great fit in a West Coast offense, which is a system Holmgren unequivocally believes in. Although the chances aren't great, it would be interesting to see who Cleveland would take at No. 38 if both players were available. An educated guess is the Browns might have Clausen rated higher on their draft board but still believe McCoy is the better fit for their offense.

A trade up Friday might be necessary.

Of the five teams ahead of Cleveland, the Minnesota Vikings (No. 34) and Kansas City Chiefs (No. 36) are both possibilities to take quarterbacks of the future. There are also teams like the Buffalo Bills and Oakland Raiders who may look to trade up and jump ahead of Cleveland for Clausen or McCoy.

Thursday's pick of former Florida cornerback Joe Haden was solid but didn't create much buzz in Cleveland. Yet, potentially adding a high-profile quarterback like McCoy or Clausen in the second round certainly adds excitement and intrigue to the Browns' 2010 draft class.

Five NFL draft predictions

April, 20, 2010
The NFL draft is just two days away and anticipation continues to build.

With that said, here are five draft predictions from the AFC North blog:

Prediction No. 1: No Tim Tebow in the first round

Analysis: There's been a lot of reports and rumors flying around, and one that's recently gaining steam is former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow will be drafted in the first round. But I'm not buying this one. There are only two quarterbacks firmly in the first round -- Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen. I'm also hearing former Texas QB Colt McCoy could sneak into the bottom of the first round if a team really gets antsy and wants him bad enough. But despite various reports, Tebow's name being linked in the opening round appears more hype and innuendo than reality. I'll believe this one only when I see it.

Prediction No. 2: Pittsburgh won't draft a QB early

Analysis: After Ben Roethlisberger's off-field issues, the knee-jerk reaction was that the Pittsburgh Steelers should take the best available QB in the draft. This won't happen. Consider the flip side: If Pittsburgh drafts a QB in the first three rounds, that player has to make the 53-man roster. That also means the Steelers have to cut Dennis Dixon or Charlie Batch, which is not in their plans. Pittsburgh won't carry four quarterbacks into next season. So as long as Roethlisberger remains on the roster, don't expect Pittsburgh to dramatically alter its draft plans to take one of the top-rated quarterbacks. It's more likely the Steelers check out QBs in the fourth round or later.

Prediction No. 3: Browns will try to trade the No. 7 pick

Analysis: The Cleveland Browns are not all that comfortable at No. 7. The pick is likely too low to land Bradford or safety Eric Berry but too high to draft safety Earl Thomas. Therefore, if the draft plays out as many expect, the Browns could be caught "reaching" if they stay put, and that's something president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert want to avoid. I can't guarantee the Browns will trade the pick to move up or down, because draft day is too unpredictable. They may find a suitor or they may not. Berry could fall to No. 7 or he may not. But under certain circumstances, Cleveland could be open to dealing its top pick at the right price for a second straight year.

Prediction No. 4: RB Toby Gerhart will land in AFC North

Analysis: I know there are seven other divisions, but Gerhart is a natural fit for the AFC North, especially considering what teams are currently lacking. The Steelers could use a big bruiser to move the chains in short-yardage situations. The Browns also need a bigger back to complement the smallish Jerome Harrison. Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh doesn't necessarily need running backs. But his brother, Jim, coached Gerhart at Stanford. So Baltimore probably has the best scouting report on Gerhart. With that amount of ties and interest, keep an eye on Gerhart in the middle rounds.

Prediction No. 5: LT Jared Gaither stays in Baltimore

Analysis: One of Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome's favorite sayings is "the right player for the right price." With that in mind, there's a better chance Gaither stays in Baltimore than he's traded this offseason. The Ravens put a first-round tender on Gaither and didn't receive any offers. That likely would've been the "right price" to move Gaither, who has one year left on his deal. But unless a team is willing to cough up, at the very least, a high second-round pick, the Ravens shouldn't consider moving their starting left tackle. If stud players like Donovan McNabb and Brandon Marshall are only garnering second-round picks, I'm not sure Gaither can command the same in this current market.
BEREA, Ohio -- Does Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren like Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen?

A few weeks ago Holmgren hinted that he didn't like Clausen as much as he would prefer. But on Thursday Holmgren praised Clausen during his pre-draft press conference to no end.

So what's the deal?

"Prior to any draft, I say any number of things for any number of reasons," Holmgren said with a sly grin. "So it was important, I think, that [Clausen] and I talked about that in case he misunderstood. We had a very good conversation, and he's a fine young man and he's a good football player. So I would not read too much into [the comment]."

Welcome to silly season, football fans.

NFL executives will say and do just about anything to get the player they actually covet in the draft. A lot is being said and reported, but the closer you get to the draft the less you can believe.

Is Clausen more in play for Cleveland at No. 7? Or is this sudden praise a unique ploy to drive up trade value? After all, Holmgren also admits he's talked to various teams about moving up and down the draft board.

Everyone will get their answers next week.

AFC North evening links

April, 14, 2010
Here is an update on the latest happenings Wednesday within the AFC North:

  • Baltimore Ravens receiver Derrick Mason said returning to the team was a no-brainer.
  • Will Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen be there for the Cleveland Browns at No. 7?
  • Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger joined his teammates Wednesday for offseason workouts.
  • Cincinnati Bengals cornerback David Jones re-signed with the team.

Walker's weekend mailbag

April, 11, 2010
Let's see what's in our division inbox this weekend.

Brian from Newton Falls, Ohio, wants to know if free-agent quarterback Marc Bulger is a possibility for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

James Walker: Bulger is from Pittsburgh so there is a natural connection, Brian. However, I haven't personally heard of any interest from the Steelers in Bulger. That probably won't change now that starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will not be charged after an allegation of sexual assault. The team now has more clarity with Roethlisberger and can move forward with him and backups Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch.

Matt from Cary, NC, writes: In the ESPN Mock Draft 4.0, Todd McShay has Joe Haden going 20th to Houston. Do you really think the Steelers would pass him up at No. 18 if he was sitting there?

Walker: I doubt it, Matt. But it depends on who's higher on Pittsburgh's draft board. I can't imagine many players being higher on the team's board than Haden at that point in the draft.

Nick from Baltimore wants to know if the Dallas Cowboys will make a play on Ravens left tackle Jared Gaither.

Walker: Nick, this may be a question more suited for my NFC East counterpart Matt Mosley. But it sounds like Dallas is fairly comfortable with starting Doug Free at left tackle. Trade talks could heat up for Gaither this week, but I'm not sure anything will happen. Teams are not trading first-round picks for anyone this year -- see Donovan McNabb, Anquan Boldin and Brandon Marshall. So that's probably out of the question for Gaither, who has a first-round tender. Of course, the Ravens can always lower their asking price to a second- or third-round pick. But at that price it's probably best to keep your starting left tackle.

Drew from Baltimore wants to know what kicker is the best option for the Ravens.

Walker: I like Steve Hauschka, Drew. Just kidding. It will probably come down to money for Baltimore. The Ravens have a certain comfort level with Billy Cundiff but would rather explore if there's an upgrade out there in draft or free agency. Former Cincinnati Bengals kicker Shayne Graham is certainly a possibility.

Brandon from Euclid, Ohio, wants to know if the Cleveland Browns would be willing to make a move for Washington Redskins defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth.

Walker: Brandon, I don't like to say things are impossible but chances are very, very slim of this happening. Haynesworth is upset that he has to play in a 3-4 defense in Washington. He would be even more upset to go to a rebuilding Cleveland team which also plays a 3-4 scheme.

Henley from Richmond, Va., writes: Do you think that because the Redskins and Seattle Seahawks have both taken strides to sure up their quarterback position, Jimmy Clausen could fall to No. 7 at Cleveland?

Walker: Yes, there is a very good chance Clausen will be there when the Browns select at No. 7, Henley. But unless something changed after Clausen's solid pro day Friday, Cleveland has more interest in other players like Tennessee safety Eric Berry.

Dan from Phoenix, Ariz., wants to know if receiver Dez Bryant and safety Earl Thomas will fall to the Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL draft.

Walker: Hi, Dan, and thanks for being a loyal reader. Of the two, Bryant would be more likely to fall to No. 21. But even that's not a guarantee. It's doubtful Thomas will be there. He is being linked with a lot of teams right now, including the Browns at No. 7. A lot of it will depend on how high Berry goes, because that would raise Thomas' value to other teams looking for a similar playmaking safety.

Dave from Cincinnati writes: What do you think of Sergio Kindle for the Bengals at No. 21?

Walker: Dave, I don't like this pick for Cincinnati. Nothing against Kindle. It's just the Bengals have more than enough linebackers and could fill needs in the first round in other areas.

AFC North evening links

April, 9, 2010
Here are the latest happenings Friday in the AFC North:

  • Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Santonio Holmes is one step closer to finding out if he will face charges stemming from a recent alleged incident in Orlando, Fla.
  • The Baltimore Ravens are taking a look at Syracuse receiver Mike Williams.
  • Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen had a good pro day.
  • Here are some past value picks for the Cincinnati Bengals.