AFC North: Kendall Wright

Let's break down the Cleveland Browns' 2012 draft:

FIRST-ROUND SPOTLIGHT: RB Trent Richardson and QB Brandon Weeden. The Browns made the right move to trade up to No. 3 for Richardson. Whether an actual threat existed or not, the Browns couldn't risk another team leapfrogging them for the best playmaker in this draft outside of Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. As far as Weeden, my biggest problem is taking him at No. 22. The Browns could've traded back in the first round and still got Weeden along with an extra pick. But, if Weeden becomes the franchise quarterback, it doesn't really matter where the Browns picked him.

IN HINDSIGHT: The Browns had targeted Baylor's Kendall Wright as one of the top-tier wide receivers in this draft. Cleveland would've had Wright if it moved up three spots in front of the Titans, who picked Wright at No. 20. Under that scenario, the Browns could have taken Weeden at No. 37 or moved back into the first round for him.

BEST VALUE: OT Mitchell Schwartz, California. Some might say this was a bit of a reach because Schwartz was considered a third-round pick (that was my initial reaction as well). But I think this pick will look much better five years from now than it did Friday. The Browns filled their biggest need with the best natural right tackle prospect in this draft. He's physical and has good bloodlines (his brother Geoff played guard for four years with the Panthers before signing with the Vikings this year).

TOP LATE-ROUND PICKUP: DL Billy Winn, Boise State. The second-round prospect fell to the sixth round because of concerns about his work ethic. He has the size to play defensive tackle and the speed to play defensive end. As a three-year starter, Winn recorded 105 tackles and 13 sacks.

SOMEONE WHO DIDN'T LIKE THIS DRAFT: Colt McCoy. The Browns used the 22nd overall pick on a 28-year-old quarterback. That signals the end of McCoy's run as the team's starting quarterback. McCoy never had the arm to be a starter in this league, but he has a lot of intangibles that impress you. He could find his niche as the backup.

BEREA, Ohio -- The reason why the Browns don't have a coveted wide receiver is because they failed to be aggressive.

Cleveland got the running back it wanted by trading up to No. 3 to draft Trent Richardson. The Browns should've done the same later in the first round for their targeted wide receiver, Baylor's Kendall Wright.

By staying put at No. 22 on Thursday, the Browns have a 28-year-old rookie quarterback in Brandon Weeden and no difference-maker at wide receiver after three rounds. Cleveland reportedly had Wright rated higher than Weeden and would've taken Wright if he was available.

According to general manager Tom Heckert, there were three wide receivers the team considered "legitimate guys." This list presumably includes Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd and Wright. Blackmon and Floyd were taken in the top 13.

If the Browns thought Wright was the last of the best receivers, they should've moved ahead of Tennessee, which drafted Wright at No. 20. The Browns had to know the Titans were interested because Tennessee had four of the top receiver prospects, including Wright, in for pre-draft visits. Moving three or four spots up would've cost the Browns a third-round pick.

Heckert said there was no frustration over failing to add a receiver in the first three rounds.

"We could have taken a receiver. We don’t want to take a receiver just to take a receiver," he said Friday night. "If we didn’t get a receiver and we didn’t get a good player, we might be [frustrated]. But we are happy with the guys we took, we really are.”

You can't fault the Browns for passing on a wide receiver early in the second round. The Browns had to address right tackle at that point because they couldn't go into a season with Oniel Cousins as the starter there.

By the time the Browns were on the clock in the third round, there were no other deep threats remaining. Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill (New York Jets) and LSU's Rueben Randle (New York Giants) both were drafted in the second round.

Heckert said there is a chance the Browns might take a wide receiver in the final four rounds Saturday. The draft resumes at noon.

“We still have some picks left. There are some guys that we do like," Heckert said. "We’ll see what happens after tomorrow and then we can discuss if we don’t have any.”
BEREA, Ohio -- The two biggest problems I have with the Cleveland Browns taking quarterback Brandon Weeden are his age (28) and where they drafted him. There wouldn't be as much of an uproar if the Browns had selected Weeden in the second round and not the first.

Perhaps that was the Browns' original plan. If the Tennessee Titans hadn't taken Baylor wide receiver Kendall Wright at No. 20, Cleveland would have drafted him at No. 22 instead of Weeden, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Asked if the decision at No. 22 would have been tougher if Wright were still on the board, general manager Tom Heckert said, "We liked Kendall and there were a couple of guys that we liked, but a quarterback is a quarterback, which I think that outweighs everything, at least in our opinion.”

So, would the Browns have taken Weeden if Wright was available? “We didn’t have to make that decision," Heckert said.

But the Browns should've had a decision even with Wright gone. Look at the two players selected after Weeden. The Browns could've had Iowa offensive tackle Riley Reiff or Stanford guard David DeCastro. Both would have addressed needs on the right side of the Cleveland's offensive line.

So, instead of getting the second-best tackle or No. 1 guard in the draft, the Browns take the third-ranked quarterback on their board (Weeden was higher than Ryan Tannehill). That's not getting the best value at the No. 22 pick.


BEREA, Ohio -- The Colt McCoy era is over. A new one -- make that older one -- began Thursday night when the Cleveland Browns selected Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden with the 22nd overall pick.

The Browns have gone from a weak-armed quarterback to a geriatric one by NFL standards. At 28 years, 195 days, Weeden is the oldest player ever to be taken in the first round of the Common Draft era, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Weeden is only two years younger than Ben Roethlisberger. He's one year older than Brady Quinn, the last quarterback taken by the Browns in the first round.

Drafting running back Trent Richardson in the first round was a no-brainer. And, even though I think Weeden can be a quality starter in this league, taking him in the first round makes little sense for a team that is not a quarterback away from contending for a Super Bowl.

The Browns have too many other needs on offense to reach for a failed minor-league pitcher. The Cleveland front office believes it found a franchise quarterback in Weeden, but you have to wonder who is going to block for him at right tackle and who is going to catch the long passes from Weeden's big arm. The Browns are right that Weeden will be an upgrade over McCoy. But, like McCoy, he might have trouble reaching that potential with the holes surrounding him.

In a span of a few hours, the Dawg Pound went from high-fiving over the selection of Richardson to scratching their heads over Weeden.

Why didn't the Browns take a wide receiver like Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill? Why didn't Cleveland pick up Iowa offensive tackle Riley Reiff or Stanford guard David DeCastro? Why did a rebuilding franchise select an older quarterback?

"We went through the process of evaluating him, we became very fond of him," Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. "We all did, from Randy [Lerner, owner] to Mike [Holmgren, team president] to Tom [Heckert, general manager] to myself. I came away saying this is a guy we'd like to have on our team. That's where we're at right now."

It was interesting that Shurmur pointed out that the owner had input on this decision. The pressure is on, and the clock is ticking.

At his age, Weeden has to start immediately. There's no time to let him sit and learn. And, because of his age, the expectation is to win immediately.

Browns officials shrugged off Weeden's age as being an issue. The number they concentrated on is 22, which is Weeden's wins in 25 starts in college.

"We feel like the kid's a winner," Shurmur said. "I wasn't concerned about his age."

The arrival of Weeden could mean the end of McCoy's days in Cleveland. The Browns gave McCoy a major vote of no confidence when they aggressively tried to trade up for Robert Griffin III last month.

The question now isn't whether McCoy will compete for the job. It's whether McCoy will even be on this team. Heckert didn't deny the possibility that the Browns could trade McCoy this weekend.

"To be honest, we haven't thought about that. We really haven't," Heckert said. "That's something we'll talk about tonight and tomorrow."

If it wasn't for Weeden's age, he would have been a top-10 pick. He has a strong arm. He's got a quick release. He is a hard worker. He is a respected leader.

There's a good chance that Weeden will be a productive quarterback and might end the string of other "franchise" quarterbacks like Tim Couch, Derek Anderson and Quinn. The problem is, teams draft quarterbacks in the first round to be the starter for the next decade. The odds are against that with Weeden, who will turn 30 in October next year.

The Browns have done such a great job in rebuilding the defense in the past two drafts that you want to give them the benefit of the doubt that they'll do the same on offense. When it came time for the Browns to pick at No. 22, Heckert said there was no decision to make especially after Baylor wide receiver Kendall Wright was drafted by Tennessee at No. 20.

"Brandon was by far the best player for us," Heckert said. "There wasn't really even an afterthought. As soon as a couple of guys went, we knew we were going to take him."

Weeden might have been the best player available at that point. He was just not the right player for the Browns.
As this blog gets posted, it's officially 12 hours before the first round of the NFL draft begins. This will be a special edition of "Wake-up Call" where we survey what the local beat writers are predicting for the teams in the division.

Everyone in the division believes the Browns will take running back Trent Richardson at No. 4 except the Browns' beat reporter. Likewise, everyone has the Browns take wide receiver Kendall Wright with the 22nd overall pick except the Browns' reporter.

There were a few surprises in these mock drafts. Two reporters had wide receiver Michael Floyd sliding to the Bengals at No. 17, and two reporters had the Ravens taking offensive tackle Mike Adams, who reportedly tested positive for marijuana.

Here are the mock drafts from the local reporters:

Joe Reedy, Cincinnati Enquirer

4. Browns: RB Trent Richardson, Alabama

17. Bengals: CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama

21. Bengals: DE-OLB Courtney Upshaw, Alabama

22. Browns: WR Kendall Wright, Baylor

24. Steelers: NT Dontari Poe, Memphis

29. Ravens: G Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin


Mary Kay Cabot, Cleveland Plain Dealer

4. Browns: WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State

17. Bengals: WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame

21. Bengals: CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama

22. Browns: RB Doug Martin, Boise State

24. Steelers: ILB Dont'a Hightower, Alabama

29. Ravens: OT Mike Adams, Ohio State


Matt Vensel, Baltimore Sun

4. Browns: RB Trent Richardson, Alabama

17. Bengals: ILB Luke Kuechly, Boston College

21. Bengals: CB Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama

22. Browns: WR Kendall Wright, Baylor

24. Steelers: G-T Cordy Glenn, Georgia

29. Ravens: ILB Dont'a Hightower, Alabama


Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

4. Browns: RB Trent Richardson, Alabama

17. Bengals: WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame

21. Bengals: DE-LB Courtney Upshaw, Alabama

22. Browns: WR Kendall Wright, Baylor

24. Steelers: NT Dontari Poe, Memphis

29. Ravens: OT Mike Adams, Ohio State
Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:

If Alabama outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw or inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower is still available at the No. 20 pick (which is currently held by the Titans), the Ravens will try to trade up to get one of them, according to the Sporting News' Mike Preston.

"Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome is a former Alabama great and has all the inside skinny information on both players," Preston wrote.

According to Preston, Baltimore also likes Georgia Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill. The Ravens know he isn't a polished route-runner, but they think he has great potential.

Hensley's slant: Upshaw and Hightower have been popular picks for the Ravens recently. Upshaw can replace Jarret Johnson, and Hightower can learn from Ray Lewis. And trading isn't out of the question for the Ravens, who have made a move in the first round in three of the past four years.

BENGALS: Head coach Marvin Lewis hinted that the team will use its two first-round picks on defense, according to the team's official website. The Bengals have taken offensive players in the first round in the past three drafts. Asked at his pre-draft press conference if this draft is tilted to offense or defense, Lewis pointed at defense because, "Maybe we have more needs defensively." After taking defensive end Carlos Dunlap in the second round in 2010 he said, "We've kind of neglected defense over the last couple of years." Hensley's slant: I would be surprised if the Bengals used both first-round picks on defense because there should be quality offensive players available at the bottom half of the first round. It would make sense for Cincinnati to pick up a guard (David DeCastro and Cordy Glenn) or a wide receiver (Kendall Wright and Stephen Hill) with one of those top picks.

BROWNS: Will the Cleveland Browns pass on Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon one year after not selecting wide receiver Julio Jones? "Last year had nothing to do with the player," Browns general manager Tom Heckert told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "It had everything to do with the deal we were able to make. We loved Julio Jones." Blackmon had 232 catches for 3,304 yards and 38 touchdowns the past two seasons with Oklahoma State. He's only the second player to win the Biletnikoff award twice as the nation's best receiver (the other was Michael Crabtree). Hensley's slant: If the Browns take Blackmon fourth overall, it cause a lot of head-scratching. Blackmon isn't in the same class as last year's No. 4 pick, wide receiver A.J. Green, and he isn't graded as high as Jones. There will be better value for wide receivers later in the first round.

STEELERS: If Memphis nose tackle Dontari Poe and Alabama's Hightower are still available at the Steelers' No. 24 spot, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette thinks the team will go with Poe. But Bouchette doesn't see Poe starting immediately unless Casey Hampton (knee) is sidelined. "It sounds as if he's one of those who can use a little grooming first," Bouchette wrote. Hensley's slant: I agree that the Steelers likely have Poe rated higher than Hightower. But Hightower is more likely to be there when the Steelers are drafting. It will take a handful of interested teams to pass on Poe for him to fall that far.
Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:

To those Bengals fans who want the team to draft a wide receiver, you are not alone.

A.J. Green, the team’s first-round pick from a year ago and current No. 1 wideout, isn’t opposed to Cincinnati bringing in another target in the passing game.

“I hope so,” Green told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “It would be nice to get someone else in here but if we don’t there are guys here who can step up. Whatever the team needs.”

The Bengals haven’t re-signed No. 2 wide receiver Jerome Simpson and have yet to add a wideout this offseason. Simpson received a three-game suspension from the NFL for violating the league's substance abuse policy, a source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Hensley’s slant: Michael Floyd probably won’t slide into the bottom half of the first round, but the Bengals will have a chance to take a wide receiver with their second first-round pick (Kendall Wright or Stephen Hill) or their second-round one (Alshon Jeffery, Rueben Randle).

BROWNS: Wide receiver-returner Josh Cribbs was cited for driving 103 mph in a 60-mph zone last month, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Cribbs addressed this on his Twitter account: “Yes I was pulled over for speeding, going too fast, luckily the police were on the job. Wasn't going that fast the entire time obviously but wrong is wrong, gotta face the music just like anyone else:(." Cribbs added, “Much Respect to the police officers who pulled me over! I will lead better on the road now as well as on & off the field!!!" Cribbs is scheduled to appear in court May 4. Hensley’s slant: Cribbs is the latest NFL player to go well over the speed limit (you should read about the reported high-speed caravan that included running back Brandon Jacobs). What Cribbs did was dangerous, but you have to be impressed with how he took responsibility for his actions.

RAVENS: The team believes it learned a lesson in drafting a wide receiver after finding success with Torrey Smith, a second-round pick from a year ago. “I think with Torrey, one of the biggest things is that he’s wired right,” director of player personnel Eric DeCosta told the team’s website. “Mentally, this is a guy who grew up in a tough environment. He grew up under difficult circumstances.” The oldest of seven children, Smith helped raise his siblings while his single mother attended community college during the day and worked at night. Before his last season at Maryland, Smith was once again parenting his younger siblings because his mother was locked up for six months after a family dispute turned violent. Hensley’s slant: Drafting productive wide receivers have been tough over the years for the Ravens, who have missed on such high picks as Travis Taylor, Patrick Johnson and Mark Clayton. The Ravens will see if they truly have learned about that position because they should take another wide receiver in this draft. I could see them taking a wide receiver-returner in the middle rounds.

STEELERS: General manager Kevin Colbert said 98 percent of the Steelers’ work for the draft is complete. He wouldn't discuss specific players but did speak to the team's draft philosophy. "Need is not a good word," Colbert said at the Steelers pre-draft press conference, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It's 'want.' We want players. We don't necessarily need. We try to add from within. The subtractions we made were substantial from a leadership standpoint. We talked about that before. That will be replaced -- we don't know by whom or how long [it will take]. Coach [Mike] Tomlin will make a final decision of when a guy plays, but, quite honestly, there are not a lot of players in this draft that can come in and be immediate impact guys for us." Hensley's slant: Like it or not, the Steelers need offensive linemen, linebackers and cornerbacks. It would be surprising if Pittsburgh's first-round pick didn't address one of these positions.
ESPN's Todd McShay revealed his fourth annual All-Satellite team, which focuses on the five players in this draft class who are the most dangerous in space. McShay has linked three of these players to AFC North teams. It's an Insider piece, but here's the ones with division ties:

Kendall Wright, Baylor wide receiver

McShay's analysis: What really jumps out about Wright, especially when comparing him to other receiver prospects is his explosiveness off the line of scrimmage and when turning upfield after the catch. He goes from 0 to 60 faster than anyone in the class.

Hensley's comment: McShay writes that the Browns could take Wright early in the second round. I wouldn't rule him out of the first round. The Browns or the Bengals could show interest in him with their second first-round picks.

Lamar Miller, Miami running back

McShay's analysis: Miller doesn't have the wiggle or make-you-miss skills of the other guys on this list, but he gets it done with impressive acceleration and top-end speed. Miller's 4.4-second 40 was the best among running backs at the combine, and the thing you notice on tape is his ability to plant his foot, then explode out of cuts.

Hensley's comment: McShay sees Miller as a late second-round pick who could get selected by the Ravens. This definitely could happen because Baltimore needs a backup after Ricky Williams' retirement. Plus, the Ravens might need to start thinking of the future if they are unable to re-sign Rice.

Chris Rainey, Florida wide receiver/running back

McShay's analysis: Rainey's burst and change-of-direction skills are remarkable on tape, and he backed that up with a 3.93-second short shuttle at the NFL combine. His open-field running skills are undeniable with his ability to explode in any direction, then change direction in a heartbeat. Every time he gets the ball in his hands, it's a Code Red for the defense.

Hensley's comment: McShay has Rainey going on Day 3 (fourth round or later) and lists the Bengals among the teams interested in him. Rainey's lack of size means an offensive coordinator has to be creative in using him. He would be an intriguing weapon for Jay Gruden, who could use some more speed at running back and wide receiver.
Just a reminder that the ESPN Blogger Mock Draft will start at 1 p.m. ET today. Until then, we have some time to open up some mail.

...

Kory, from Foster City, Calif., writes: I know you've been steadfast on the Browns taking Trent Richardson at No. 4. My question is, if you had the choice in a hypothetical scenario between Richardson and last year's No. 4 pick, A.J. Green, would you still stick with Richardson or would you be harping for the Browns to take Green?

Jamison Hensley, from AFC North headquarters, responds: I would go with Green because you knew he was going to be a special wide receiver. Green and Julio Jones were both rated higher than Justin Blackmon is right now. That's the difference. So, the choice is to go with a playmaker like Green, who immediately upgrades the passing game and can catch big touchdown passes for 10 years. Of course, knowing a receiver like Green would be available, the Browns would have to address running back in free agency or consider using an early pick on a running back like Virginia Tech's David Wilson or Boise State's Doug Martin. Now, returning to reality, the Browns should draft Richardson with the fourth overall pick and be very happy about it.



Brian from Georgetown, Ky., writes: Do you think it is possible that, if both are available, the Bengals might take Stephen Hill over Kendall Wright given their history of taking big, fast wide receivers early (Jerome Simpson in the second round for example) in the past?

Jamison Hensley: You make a good point on why the Bengals would select Hill because their history suggests that. I just see Hill as a raw version of A.J. Green. Hill has the potential to be really good, although it's going to take some time. The team that drafts him is going to need patience. The Bengals need a No. 2 wide receiver and someone who can make an immediate impact for team looking to return to the playoffs. Wright is more NFL ready. He is elusive after the catch and can make the tough grab over the middle. Taking Hill wouldn't be an awful move. Selecting Wright would just be the better one for the Bengals.



Gene from San Diego writes: Are you buying ino Peter King's report that the Ravens aren't too hot about Peter Konz and that they are going to trade up to No. 23 in order to obtain Dont'a Hightower? Hard to imagine Ozzie Newsome trading up since their theme of this draft is deep depth.

Jamison Hensley: I think there's a better chance of the Ravens trading down than up. As you pointed out, the Ravens believe they can address a lot of areas of depth in this draft. And, with a division-low eight picks (only one selection in the first 59), Baltimore is more motivated to add more picks than trade them. Still, it comes down to who is available at No. 23. If the Ravens' board is getting wiped clean and Hightower is one of their top prospects remaining, they will consider jumping up to get him. Baltimore doesn't want to be left taking its 29th-rated prospect with the 29th pick. So, I wouldn't totally rule out a move up.



Carl from Erie, Pa., writes: I know the Steelers need to replace James Farrior, and Dont'a Hightower seems like the perfect fit. But wouldn't it be better for the Steelers to get a good lineman like Cordy Glenn to give Ben Roethlisberger more time and who ever our running back is more holes to run through? We all know how good Ben is when he gets time to throw.

Jamison Hensley: Hightower is the popular pick because he would fill a need, but he's not the slam-dunk pick. Assuming a player like Memphis nose tackle Dontari Poe is long gone, the Steelers' decision will come down to linebacker or offensive line. Glenn would be a solid choice, especially because of his versatility. But the Steelers will have other options like Wisconsin's Kevin Zeitler and Midwestern State's Amini Silatolu. Even if the Steelers take Hightower, they likely will address the offensive line with another early-round pick.



Here are some comments left in the mailbag ...

Jim Bigwood from Towson, Md., writes: Biggest laugh at lunch today, "Looks like they let a Ravens fan choose the Steelers throwback unis."

James Abernathy from Cincinnati writes: Regarding your comment on the Bengals' schedule: "If the Bengals can't pack the stadium for those games, there's a major problem in Cincinnati." Yeah, that problem's name is Mike Brown.

Logz from Pittsburgh writes: Steelers-Ravens the week before and after Thanksgiving? That's like getting in a bar fight, going to the hospital, and then back to a bar fight while the wounds are still fresh. Who says the NFL doesn't care about player safety.
We're heading into the homestretch in our "You make the call" feature.

Once we get through all six first-round selections, I will compile an AFC North fans' mock for the Bengals, Browns, Ravens and Steelers.

SportsNation

Who should the Browns take with the 22nd overall pick?

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    34%
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    19%
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    13%
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    27%
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    7%

Discuss (Total votes: 2,284)

Today's pick is the Cleveland Browns and the 22nd overall pick. Here are the choices:

WR Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech: An intriguing deep threat, Hill can outrun defensive backs and outleap them for the ball. He could take some time to develop because he ran limited amount of routes in his college offense.

OT Jonathan Martin, Stanford: A three-year starter in college, Martin has excellent awareness and good size. He isn't a polished pass-protector.

QB Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State: He has an outstanding arm and works hard off the field. The biggest knock is his age. He turns 29 during the season.

WR Kendall Wright, Baylor: A big playmaker, Wright has the speed to beat defenders deep and the sudden stop-and-go movement to elude tacklers after the catch. At 5-foot-10, he lacks ideal height and strength.
We're into our third day in gauging what you think the teams in the AFC North should do in the first round.

Once we get through all six first-round selections by early next week, I will compile an AFC North fans' mock for the Bengals, Browns, Ravens and Steelers.

SportsNation

Who should the Bengals take with the 21st overall pick?

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    12%
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    24%
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    22%
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    8%
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    34%

Discuss (Total votes: 320)

Today's pick is the Cincinnati Bengals and the 21st overall pick. Here are the choices:

CB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina: He's got all the traits to be an excellent cover cornerback -- height, speed and a reputation for being a hard worker. There are concerns about if he's physical enough to play in-your-face man coverage.

G-OT Cordy Glenn, Georgia: Agile for his size, Glenn has played every position on the offensive line besides center. His questionable work habits and soft temperament hurts his value.

CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama: Instinctive and tough, he's an aggressive cover corner who plays with confidence. His three career interceptions indicate a lack of playmaking ability.

WR Kendall Wright, Baylor: A big playmaker, Wright has the speed to beat defenders deep and the sudden stop-and-go movement to elude tacklers after the catch. At 5-10, he lacks ideal height and strength.
At least four teams have called the Cleveland Browns about the fourth overall pick in the upcoming draft, sources told the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

One of the teams believed to be in the mix is the St. Louis Rams. That would mean dropping to No. 6. Just say no. Why? The Browns can say goodbye to an elite offensive playmaker in running back Trent Richardson if they trade down. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers would immediately grab Richardson at No. 5.

Another potential trade partner is the Philadelphia Eagles. This would require the Browns to fall to No. 15. Cleveland really has to say no to this one. Why? It's a pipe dream to think wide receiver Michael Floyd is going to be available at this spot. He's going to get drafted by Buffalo (No. 10) or Arizona (No. 13).

The top offensive prospects who should be on the board in the middle of the first round are guard David DeCastro and wide receiver Kendall Wright. Two additional second-round picks are not worth this dropoff. Plus, general manager Tom Heckert indicated 17 days ago that the Browns would consider falling back as far as No. 8. The Eagles' spot is out of that range.

As I mentioned earlier this week, the Browns shouldn't trade back. They need playmakers, not picks. Their draft should be based on quality, not quantity.

Still, there's a good chance that the Browns will trade back. Heckert's track record shows he likes to acquire extra picks. And, as ESPN Insider Bill Polian pointed out, Mike Holmgren's teams often find their running backs later in the draft or through free agency.

But Richardson is one of those special types of backs. He has the toughness to excel in a division like the AFC North and he has the potential to immediately affect an offense like Adrian Peterson did.

If Holmgren doesn't believe me, he should consult with his good friend and ESPN analyst Jon Gruden before thinking of trading back.

“The easiest thing to do is turn around and hand the ball to somebody 300 times a year,” Gruden said in a conference call. “Everybody says, ‘Don’t take a running back. You can get those guys in the fifth, sixth or seventh round.' You go try to find Trent Richardson in the fifth, sixth or seventh round."

Gruden added, “He’s a beast. He broke all of Emmitt Smith’s high school rushing records in Florida. I’ve seen him run over people, run around people, he protects the ball, he can catch it, can pick up blitzes. He might be the strongest human being on the planet."

Just because teams are interested in the No. 4 pick doesn't mean the Browns should be interested in giving it up. Just say no.
ESPN's Todd McShay offered the fifth version of his 2012 mock draft Insider this week. It's a little different than his previous ones because he discusses the different scenarios facing each team. Here's a look at the AFC North part of it:

4. Cleveland Browns

Version 1.0: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

Version 2.0: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

Version 3.0: Richardson

Version 4.0: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

Current pick: Richardson

Hensley's comment: I've been on board for the past few weeks with this selection. McShay brings up the possibility of the Browns taking Blackmon or quarterback Ryan Tannehill here. For me, Richardson is the clear-cut choice. Blackmon lacks elite speed and Tannehill is too much of a risk.

17. Cincinnati Bengals

Version 1.0: David DeCastro, G, Stanford

Version 2.0: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

Version 3.0: Kirkpatrick

Version 4.0: DeCastro

Current pick: DeCastro

Hensley's comment: McShay believes the decision to take DeCastro would be tougher if Alabama safety Mark Barron was available here, too. My feeling is the Bengals don't think twice about taking DeCastro here unless wide receiver Michael Floyd surprisingly falls (which won't happen).

21. Cincinnati Bengals

Version 1.0: Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska

Version 2.0: Lamar Miller, RB, Miami

Version 3.0: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State

Version 4.0: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina

Current pick: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor

Hensley's comment: Like McShay, I could see the Bengals addressing corner at this spot if someone like Kirkpatrick is still on the board. But taking Wright makes sense. His speed and playmaking ability would prove troublesome to defenses focusing their attention on A.J. Green.

22. Cleveland Browns

Version 1.0: Kevin Reddick, OLB, North Carolina

Version 2.0: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

Version 3.0: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU

Version 4.0: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State

Current pick: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford

Hensley's comment: Not sure I would go with Martin, especially with Georgia Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill on the board. The Browns can get an offensive tackle like Bobby Massie early in the second round.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers

Version 1.0: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia

Version 2.0: Adams

Version 3.0: Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama

Version 4.0: Hightower

Current pick: Hightower

Hensley's comment: I can see Georgia offensive lineman Cordy Glenn being tempting at this pick for the Steelers, but McShay has him going at No. 18 to San Diego. Hightower would step into the void left by James Farrior. Pittsburgh could also take an offensive lineman or cornerback in the first round.

29. Baltimore Ravens

Version 1.0: Adams

Version 2.0: Vontaze Burfict, ILB, Arizona State

Version 3.0: Peter Konz, C-G, Wisconsin

Version 4.0: Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame

Current pick: Smith

Hensley's comment: If Smith is the best player available here, I can see the Ravens trying to move back. There's also a chance that the Ravens could try to move up if Hill slips down around their range. One name that McShay mentioned -- Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler -- is another possibility here.

AFC North free-agency assessment

March, 29, 2012
3/29/12
11:00
AM ET
AFC Assessments: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

Cincinnati Bengals

Key additions: RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, S Reggie Nelson, G Travelle Wharton, CB Jason Allen, CB Adam Jones, DE Jamaal Anderson, DE Derrick Harvey

Key losses: DE Frostee Rucker (Browns), G Nate Livings (Cowboys), G Mike McGlynn (Colts), DE Jonathan Fanene (Patriots), WR Andre Caldwell (Broncos)

Grade after first wave of free agency: B. The Bengals were the most active team in the division and they should have been. Cincinnati entered free agency with more than $50 million in salary-cap space, which was more than the rest of the AFC North combined. The Bengals upgraded at running back and left guard while bringing back their top free-agent priority in safety Reggie Nelson. The biggest knock against the Bengals is they didn't make a splash by signing a high-profile free agent like guard Ben Grubbs or wide receiver Robert Meachem.

The prize of the Bengals' signings is running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who is an improvement over Cedric Benson. Green-Ellis isn't known for breaking long gains, but he is a force in the red zone and has never fumbled in the NFL. Wharton is a step up from Nate Livings at left guard because he is a strong run-blocker who will open holes inside. The biggest losses came on the defensive line, where Cincinnati will miss Frostee Rucker on run defense and Jonathan Fanene in the pass rush.

What’s next: The Bengals can still close the gap between the Ravens and Steelers because they have two first-round picks in the draft (No. 17 overall, which came from Oakland in the Carson Palmer trade, and No. 21). Even with the signing of Wharton, Cincinnati needs a right guard and could have a shot at the top interior offensive lineman coming out of college. Stanford's David DeCastro is one of the safest picks in the draft and would start immediately for the Bengals.

The second first-round pick could be used on a wide receiver or a cornerback. The Bengals surprisingly didn't add a free-agent wide receiver to pair with A.J. Green. Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill or Baylor's Kendall Wright should be available in the bottom third of the draft. Another need is cornerback because Cincinnati could use an eventual replacement for Nate Clements, who is entering his 12th season. Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick, the second best corner in the draft, has a chance of sliding to the Bengals.

Cleveland Browns

Key additions: DE Frostee Rucker, LB D'Qwell Jackson, CB Dimitri Patterson, DE Juqua Parker

Key losses: RB Peyton Hillis (Chiefs), S Mike Adams (Broncos), G Eric Steinbach, OT Tony Pashos

Grade after first wave of free agency: C. Browns president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert said they were building this team through the draft and they weren't joking. The Browns desperately needed to improve at quarterback, wide receiver and right tackle. But Cleveland's offense came out of the initial wave of free agency empty-handed. Blame the Washington Redskins. The Browns attempted to move up in the draft to take Robert Griffin III, and the Rams instead traded the second overall pick to the Redskins. Cleveland reportedly pursued wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan, and both took high-priced deals from Washington.

The Browns provided more help to the defense in free agency. Frostee Rucker will make an impact in stopping the run, which was the biggest weakness on the NFL's 10th-ranked defense. Juqua Parker, who has 31.5 sacks over the past six seasons, will team with Jabaal Sheard to give Cleveland a strong rush coming off both edges. The Browns didn't try to keep Peyton Hillis and Mike Adams from going elsewhere.

What’s next: Offense, offense and offense. Did I mention offense? The Browns need a quarterback but there's no one worthy of the fourth overall pick. Cleveland could trade down to select Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill or wait until the second round for Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden. The big decision comes if the Browns stay put at No. 4. Cleveland's choices are Alabama running back Trent Richardson or Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon. The Browns could use either one because they don't have a starting running back or a No. 1 wide receiver.

Cleveland has a second first-round pick as a result of last year's trade with the Atlanta Falcons. The Browns need to target a wide receiver (if they don't take one earlier in the first round), right tackle or outside linebacker with the 22nd overall pick. Baylor receiver Wright, Mississippi offensive tackle Bobby Massie and Nebraska outside linebacker Lavonte David have been linked to Cleveland.

Baltimore Ravens

Key additions: C Matt Birk, ILB Jameel McClain, OLB Brendon Ayanbadejo, CB Corey Graham, S Sean Considine

Key losses: G Ben Grubbs (Saints), OLB Jarret Johnson (Chargers), DE Cory Redding (Colts) and CB Domonique Foxworth

Grade after first wave of free agency: D. The Ravens lost three starters (Ben Grubbs, Jarret Johnson and Cory Redding) from last season's AFC North champion team and have yet to add anyone to replace them. It was a rough start to free agency for Baltimore, which didn't sign any of its first three visits (guard Evan Mathis, defensive end Mark Anderson and receiver-returner Ted Ginn Jr.). The toughest part of free agency was when the Ravens failed to sign Mathis, who re-signed with the Eagles, after Baltimore had just lost Grubbs.

Baltimore was able to keep two free-agent starters, Matt Birk and Jameel McClain, and boost a struggling special-teams group that allowed three touchdowns last season. The Ravens signed Cory Graham, a Pro Bowl special-teams player from the Bears; Brendon Ayanbadejo, a three-time Pro Bowl special-teams standout; and Sean Considine, who played special teams for three seasons under John Harbaugh in Philadelphia.

What’s next: The Ravens' biggest need is at left guard, but there might not be one that warrants being taken at No. 29. Wisconsin center-guard Peter Konz's stock has slipped recently even though he can play guard right away before switching to center in future seasons. It's hard to pin down a player for Baltimore, which can go in a lot of different directions in the first round.

The Ravens could take the best wide receiver available (especially if he's a returner) because they need a third target who can eventually take Anquan Boldin's starting spot. They could take a safety because Ed Reed turns 34 at the start of the season and Bernard Pollard is a free agent next year. And they could take an offensive tackle because they don't have a reliable backup and Bryant McKinnie is a free agent in 2013.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Key additions: None

Key losses: CB William Gay (Cardinals), LB James Farrior, NT Chris Hoke, G Chris Kemoeatu, DE Aaron Smith, WR Hines Ward

Grade after first wave of free agency: D. It's been a quiet free-agency period so far for the Steelers. Then again, it's usually quiet for the Steelers at this point in the offseason. The only team that consistently does less than the Steelers in free agency is the Green Bay Packers.

The Steelers avoided a failing grade because they've lost only two starters from last season's playoff team. James Farrior was cut in the team's salary-cap purge, and William Gay left as an unrestricted free agent. What Pittsburgh really lost in trimming $25 million to get under the cap was veteran depth and leadership. Injuries would force young players to step up into starting roles.

What’s next: There are question marks at running back, guard, inside linebacker, nose tackle and cornerback. Despite all of those needs, the consensus has been Pittsburgh will draft Alabama inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower if he's available at No. 24. He has a great combination of size and speed and excelled in a 3-4 defense in college. It seems like Hightower would be the perfect fit for Pittsburgh.

There's no chance that Memphis' Dontari Poe falls to the Steelers, but there some quality nose tackles in the draft. Those who should be available after the first round are: BYU's Loni Fangupo (second round), Washington's Alameda Ta'amu (third round) and Alabama's Josh Chapman (fourth round). The Steelers likely will become active later in free agency, especially in retaining their own players. Wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, running back Mewelde Moore and quarterbacks Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch could potentially return to the team.

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