AFC North: Laurence Maroney

Draft Watch: AFC North

March, 31, 2010
3/31/10
1:00
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NFC History: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each week leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: History in that spot.

Cleveland Browns

The Browns hold the highest slot in the AFC North, the No. 7 overall pick. With the type of money that's involved, this pick has to be a franchise player or it could set back an offense or defense. For example, the Minnesota Vikings selected running back Adrian Peterson at No. 7 in 2007 and he put the entire franchise on his back. But recent busts such as receiver Troy Williamson (2005) and safety Michael Huff (2006) haven't done enough to warrant the high pick. Either way, Cleveland has to be prepared to dole out a large contract. Last year's No. 7 pick -- Oakland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey -- received a five-year deal worth a maximum of $38.25 million. So expect the Browns to be paying this year's No. 7 pick upwards of $40 million this summer.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh has the No. 18 slot this year. The Steelers could take advantage of getting a very good player in what's considered a deep draft. In the past five years, this pick has been hit or miss. Quality players such as Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (2008) and Cincinnati cornerback Leon Hall (2007) were added to the AFC North from this spot. But there were also a pair of recent misses with Dallas Cowboys linebacker Bobby Carpenter (2006) and defensive end Erasmus James of Minnesota (2005). Last year the Denver Broncos selected Robert Ayers, who had a fairly uneventful rookie year.

Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati has the No. 21 pick, where the last two years offensive linemen have done pretty well. The Browns took center Alex Mack in 2009 and the Atlanta Falcons selected offensive tackle Sam Baker in 2008. Both players fit right in with their respective teams. But the previous three years were all misses for first-rounders. The Jacksonville Jaguars missed twice with this pick with safety Reggie Nelson (2007) and receiver Matt Jones (2005), who was out of football last season and signed with Cincinnati in February. New England Patriots running back Laurence Maroney, who was taken in 2006, has been decent but not great.

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens hold the No. 25 overall pick, where there has been plenty of recent success. The group includes a Super Bowl MVP (Santonio Holmes), a starting quarterback (Jason Campbell), a one-time Pro Bowl linebacker (Jon Beason) and two good young cornerbacks (Mike Jenkins and Vontae Davis). If the Ravens have this type of success with the No. 25 pick this year, it will be a good draft day for Baltimore. The Ravens have thrived picking players late in the first round in the past. Great players such as Ed Reed (No. 24), Ray Lewis (No. 26), and most recently Michael Oher (No. 23) have all come toward the end of the opening round.

A look back: No. 21 and No. 25 picks

February, 19, 2010
2/19/10
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The AFC North blog continues to look at the NFL draft.

The Cincinnati Bengals (No. 21) and Baltimore Ravens (No. 25) have the final two picks in the division in April. Here is a look at the recent history of those picks:

Recent No. 21 overall picks

2009: Alex Mack, C, Cleveland Browns

2008: Sam Baker, OT, Atlanta Falcons

2007: Reggie Nelson, S, Jacksonville Jaguars

2006: Laurence Maroney, RB, New England Patriots

2005: Matt Jones, WR, Jaguars

Analysis: This group isn't overwhelming, but you also have to consider this is fairly late in the first round. Likewise, the Bengals won't be looking for a Hall of Famer with this pick, just a good contributor. Mack and Baker have been productive offensive linemen and should have solid careers. Nelson and Maroney have been decent picks, albeit not spectacular. Jones' story is well documented. Personal issues held him back in Jacksonville, and he was out of football in 2009. Jones is trying to restart his career with the Bengals in 2010.

Recent No. 25 overall picks

2009: Vontae Davis, CB, Miami Dolphins

2008: Mike Jenkins, CB, Dallas Cowboys

2007: Jon Beason, LB, Carolina Panthers

2006: Santonio Holmes, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

2005: Jason Campbell, QB, Washington Redskins

Analysis: This is a tremendous group of players at the end of the first round, as all five players are contributors for their respective teams. Beason was a Pro Bowler for Carolina in 2008, and Holmes also was the Super Bowl MVP for Pittsburgh that same season. Both Jenkins and Davis are two good, up-and-coming cornerbacks. Campbell has had his share of ups and downs, but he is the starting quarterback for the Redskins as the No. 25 pick. The Ravens have a track record of getting quality players late in the first round, so it will be interesting to see who is available here this year.

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