AFC North: Todd Mcshay

PITTSBURGH -- ESPN analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay don’t always agree when evaluating draft-eligible players. But their thinking falls along the same lines when it comes to Steelers fourth-round draft pick Martavis Bryant.

Kiper listed the former Clemson wide receiver as one five offensive players drafted in the later rounds who could make an immediate impact in the NFL. McShay also said that Bryant has a chance to contribute early for the Steelers.

“He does a really nice job of getting off the line and he’s a vertical route runner,” McShay said. “You’ve got a big, strong-armed quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger and you want a guy that can stretch the field vertically. There’s some boom or bust there, but when you get him in the fourth round you’re not worried so much about the risk factor. If he focuses and does all the right things he could wind up being a real steal from this class.”

[+] EnlargeMartavis Bryant
Tyler Smith/Getty ImagesMartavis Bryant's size and speed could help the WR earn plenty of playing time as a rookie.
The 6-foot-4, 212-pound Bryant gives the Steelers the tall wide receiver that the offense has lacked. His 40-yard dash time (4.42 seconds) at the NFL scouting combine as well as his career yards per catch (22.2) at Clemson validate his potential as a big-time deep threat.

And he started only one season at Clemson where first-round picks DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins overshadowed Bryant, meaning he is far from a finished product -- something that should excite the Steelers’ coaches as well as challenge them.

“He’s what I have been hunting,” Steelers wide receivers coach Richard Mann said. “Probably had he played more [at Clemson], stayed for another year, he would have been a first-rounder for sure. I think all that he needs to learn we will teach it to him.”

Bryant slipped to the fourth round of the draft because of concerns about his maturity as well as his inconsistency as a pass-catcher. The Steelers hosted Bryant for a pre-draft visit and were comfortable enough after what they heard from him to think that he will be fine in the right environment.

As for the drops he had in college, Mann said that is something that can be easily corrected and can probably be traced to Bryant’s hand placement or his trying to run before securing a catch.

“He does a really good job of tracking the ball and catching it over the top,” Mann said. “A lot of times guys can’t do it and it’s very hard to teach.”

McShay agreed that Bryant’s ball skills are undeniable.

“He was inconsistent catching the ball but he also makes tough catches,” McShay said, “and he can adjust to the ball below his waist, over his head, behind his body.”

It is way too premature to get overly excited about Bryant, who takes part in the Steelers' three-day rookie minicamp that starts on Friday.

Fred Gibson, the last physically gifted wide receiver that the Steelers drafted in the fourth round (2005), didn’t even make it out of training camp. And for all of the buzz created by the second-round selection of Limas Sweed in 2008, the former Texas standout caught just seven career passes for the Steelers.

Chronic drops were one of the reasons why the Steelers released Sweed in 2011.

One thing that Mann won’t do is speculate on how big of a role Bryant will have in the Steelers’ offense as a rookie. But he also won’t rule out Bryant challenging for the starting job opposite Pro Bowler Antonio Brown.

“You have to come in and work because we have other guys in the room,” Mann said. “Potentially he will be a starter, you just never know. You play the best. That’s how you win.”
PITTSBURGH -- Of the many things to like about the Pittsburgh Steelers picking Ryan Shazier in the first round of the NFL draft, here is another one: to peg him as just an inside linebacker is shortsighted.

[+] EnlargeRyan Shazier
Elsa/Getty ImagesThe Steelers selected Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier with the 15th overall pick in the first round.
"Ultimately, you're in sub packages so much that you really need to have guys that can match up, and that's what Shazier brings, and he brings pass-rushing ability," ESPN analyst Todd McShay said during a post-draft conference call. "I think they [the Steelers] get faster and more athletic with that pick alone."

Yes, they do.

"When we took Ryan, we talked about a defensive playmaker over anything else," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "He fit the bill in that regard."

The speedy Shazier is also the kind of player defenses need in order to counter offenses that spread out and increasingly force defenses out of their base set.

"What's happening today is there are multiple receiver personnel groupings, like 60 to 65 percent of the time," Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler said. "[Shazier] fits the part of the game that is starting to put faster people on the field."

Shazier ran a sub-4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash at Ohio State's pro day, and he is so fast that Steelers defensive backs coach Carnell Lake asked Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby during a pre-draft visit if Shazier could play safety.

And he wasn't joking.

"There is no reason why he couldn't play safety," said Lake, the former Steelers standout who played safety and cornerback during his 13-year NFL career. "This guy is big and fast and aggressive. If for some reason Keith Butler doesn't like him, I'll take him."

That's not going to happen.

But Shazier is going to line up at different spots because of his speed, versatility and ability to play in space.

"He has the athleticism to drop back into coverage and match up," Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. "He has speed. He's going to get on people quicker than they know because he's very fast."

Shazier is not even the fastest player in the Steelers' draft class -- third-round pick Dri Archer takes that honor -- which shows how much of a premium Pittsburgh put on adding speed through the draft.

"I think you covet speed, but it's football, not a track meet," Tomlin said. "If you get a capable football player who happens to be fast, it's an asset. Speed players that we were able to acquire in this draft fit that bill: football players first who happen to be extremely fast."
PITTSBURGH -- Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay will critique draft picks that are made in less than a week. The ESPN analysts took their own respective turns in the hot seat Thursday night on ESPN2.

Ebron
The two engaged in a head-to-head, three-round mock draft with Kiper picking for teams with even-numbered draft picks and McShay picking for those with odd-numbered picks. Their selections were followed by analysis from former NFL general manager Bill Polian and former NFL director of pro personnel Louis Riddick.

And Polian didn't opt for subtlety after McShay picked North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron for the Steelers at No. 15 overall.

"He's a Pittsburgh Steeler and he doesn't block. That doesn't compute," Polian, a six-time NFL Executive of the Year, said of Ebron. "I don't think he's ready to play in the NFL right now. I think he's too immature. I don't think his feet are firmly planted on the ground. Yeah, he has ability but that only gets you so far."

Ebron may be one of the more polarizing players in the draft.

The 6-foot-4, 250-pounder is the best tight end in the draft and an undeniable talent. Ebron, who caught 62 passes for 973 yards in his final season at North Carolina, has the size and athleticism to create mismatches.

And he is part of the new wave of tight ends who have become such a commodity because of their ability to put stress on opposing defenses.

Ebron would give quarterback Ben Roethlisberger a tall target, and he would add a pass-catcher to a group that doesn't have a reliable one after veteran Heath Miller.

But as a blocker he can most diplomatically be described as a work in progress.

Or, as McShay said recently, “He’s a buffet blocker if you will. He kind of picks and chooses when he wants to get interested. But what he does well it’s just hard to find guys that can do it at the level that he does as far as stretching the field vertically and creating after the catch.”

Ebron may be too much of a gamble for the Steelers to pick at No. 15, especially since they have more pressing needs. McShay picked him for the Steelers with Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard off the board though with every other cornerback still available.

Riddick said he would have taken a cornerback for the Steelers, and he is especially high on Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller. Polian added of Ebron, "I would not risk this guy in a Pittsburgh offense that requires you to block."

As for the Steelers' other two picks, Kiper took LSU wide receiver Jarvis Landry for them in the second round (No. 46 overall). McShay picked Clemson cornerback Bashaud Breeland for the Steelers in the third round (No. 97 overall).
The fifth mock drafts are out for ESPN draft experts Mel Kiper Jr. Insider and Todd McShay Insider, and their first-round picks for the Baltimore Ravens have a familiar ring.

Kiper has the Ravens taking North Carolina's Eric Ebron, the consensus best tight end in the draft. The Ravens would be thrilled to land a playmaker like Ebron at No. 17. Ebron was Kiper's pick for the Ravens in his first two mock drafts.

McShay stuck with the offensive theme as well, sending Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin to the Ravens. This is the second straight mock draft where McShay has linked the Ravens to Martin. The Ravens are looking to upgrade at right tackle, and Martin is considered the fourth-best tackle in this draft.

History of Kiper's picks for Ravens

Mock 1.0: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

Mock 2.0: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

Mock 3.0: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

Mock 4.0: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville

History of McShay's picks for Ravens

Mock 1.0: Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

Mock 2.0: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

Mock 3.0: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama

Mock 4.0: Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame

Mock 5.0: Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame
PITTSBURGH -- Cody Latimer, arguably the fastest rising player in the NFL draft, held a private workout on Friday and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receivers coach Richard Mann was among those in attendance, per NFL.com’s Gil Brandt.

The Steelers met with Latimer at the NFL scouting combine two months ago, and he is one of the hottest names in the draft right now.

ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. ranks Latimer as the 29th-best player in the draft, and Todd McShay is also high on the Indiana wide receiver.

"I’ve watched five tapes of his games and he didn’t drop a ball," McShay said. "I was blown away with his skill set."

There is a lot to like about Latimer, a projected first- or second-round pick.

He has good size -- Latimer measured 6-2 and weighed 215 pounds at the combime -- and McShay said he was clocked between 4.39 and 4.43 seconds in the 40-yard dash at Indiana’s pro day.

Latimer did not run at the combine since he was still recovering from surgery to fix a broken metatarsal in his foot. The fact he was limited in what he could do at the combine as well as sheer volume of wide receivers in the draft may have contributed to Latimer staying a bit under the radar until the past couple of weeks.

But he excelled at Indiana, catching 72 passes for 1,096 yards and nine touchdowns last season as a junior, and Latimer has upside since he didn’t start playing football until his junior year of high school and instead concentrated on basketball.

The range where Latimer is projected to go in the draft does not match up well with where the Steelers pick. But the draft is so flush with wide receivers Latimer could last until where the Steelers' pick in the second round.

Or he could be an option for them in the first round if they trade down.

“He’s competitive, can run after the catch and has great ball skills,” McShay said.

He also has the size the Steelers are lacking at wide receiver. Keep an eye on Latimer -- it's something the Steelers are apparently doing as well.

PITTSBURGH -- ESPN analyst Todd McShay labeled Bradley Roby as "a classic boom or bust" player in the 2014 NFL draft.

And that was before a report surfaced that the Ohio State cornerback faces a charge of operating a vehicle while impaired.

Roby already had some baggage when he declared for the draft following an inconsistent junior season at Ohio State, one in which he missed the opener because of a suspension.

The latest incident, which occurred last Sunday in Columbus, could cost Roby a chance of going in the first round. And he may experience something similar to what happened to former Buckeyes offensive tackle Mike Adams two years ago.

Adams, a first-round talent, slid to the Steelers in the second round, in part because he failed a drug test at the combine. Could Roby, whom the Steelers recently hosted for a pre-draft visit, fall to them in the second round in two weeks?

It's hard to imagine the Steelers considering Roby at No. 15 overall because the pick would be fraught with risk. But Roby's physical skills are undeniable, and he may be too talented for the Steelers to pass on him in the second round if he lasts that long.

ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. ranks Roby as the 39th-best player in the draft, and McShay said, "I actually think he might be the most athletic corner in this draft."

But McShay also issued a caveat emptor when it comes to Roby, who is 5-foot-11, 194 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds at the NFL scouting combine.

"I'd be real nervous to pull the trigger on him because I don't know what I'm getting," McShay said. "It's a young man that has some growing to do. I think he's got to become more focused and there's just a lot of inconsistent tape on him.

"He's a wild card. He could be the best defensive back in this class five years from now or he could wind up being another first-round cornerback that doesn't pan out in the league because he didn't need to do what he had to do mentally and from a preparation standpoint."

Analyzing McShay mock: Bengals 

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After winning the AFC North and claiming a third consecutive playoff berth last season, the Cincinnati Bengals earned themselves a low first-round pick in this year's draft. Two weeks from Thursday, they will select 24th.

They have needs all over the secondary, with cornerbacks and safeties likely high on their priority list. Outside linebackers might also be coveted, as could running backs, defensive ends, offensive linemen and quarterbacks.

PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers are meeting with a pair of defensive players Monday, including a potential first-round pick.

Barr
UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr and Wisconsin defensive tackle Beau Allen are the Steelers' latest visitors as the team prepares for the upcoming draft.

Barr is considered one of the best pass-rushers in the draft while Allen is a projected late-round pick after moving to nose tackle last season when Wisconsin switched to a 3-4 scheme.

Barr is an intriguing prospect because of his production at UCLA -- the 6-foot-5, 255-pounder recorded 10 sacks last season -- and his upside as a pass-rusher. Barr played fullback for two seasons before moving to defense, and he is still learning on that side of the ball.

ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. ranks Barr as the 15th-best player in the draft.

"He has a decent arsenal of moves, using quick feet and hands to free himself, and he's disciplined against the run, pursuing with speed when the play runs away from him," Kiper writes of Barr. "I love the effort, and the athleticism, but as a former fullback, he needs to grow in his awareness."

ESPN analyst Todd McShay isn't as high on the former Bruins star. McShay ranks Barr as the 30th-best player in the draft.

The Steelers are unlikely to draft an outside linebacker in the first round since they took one with their first-round pick last year in Jarvis Jones. But they do need to add depth at the position and are expected to draft an outside linebacker prospect at some point.

Allen could be a late-round possibility for the Steelers if they don't take a nose tackle early in the draft. The 6-foot-2, 333-pounder recorded 20 tackles and 1.5 sacks last season for the Badgers but did not get invited to the NFL scouting combine.

Allen tested well at Wisconsin’s pro day though he was limited in running drills because of a hamstring issue.

The Steelers are allowed to host 30 players outside of the Pittsburgh area for pre-draft visits. This is the final week of visits for NFL prospects.
ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay talked in-depth about the Steelers' draft earlier this week, and the two agree that cornerback is probably the team's biggest need.

But McShay isn't as enthused as Kiper is about the Steelers taking one with the 15th overall pick of the draft.

McShay said he is not sure there is a cornerback worth taking that high even if players such as Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert and Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard are available.

“I think I would probably go wide receiver or offensive line in the first round depending on what's available and then maybe coming back cornerback in Round 2,” McShay said on ESPN's First Draft podcast.

Kiper and McShay agree that the Steelers have to focus on defense in this draft with the former saying that defensive line joins cornerback as the team's most pressing need. McShay offered more pointed comments about what the Steelers are facing as they re-tool their defense.

“They've had to get younger fast,” McShay said. “I thought for awhile they were doing that effectively but it hasn't worked out. I do think they are getting younger. I think they have to continue to get faster and more athletic in the back end and I think they know that.”

One of the biggest keys for the Steelers' defense this season is outside linebacker Jarvis Jones taking a huge step after he struggled as a rookie.

Jones, the Steelers' first-round pick last year, started eight games in 2013 but managed just one sack. The former Georgia star played better later in the season as he started thinking less on the field, but Jones needs to add strength as well as more pass-rushing moves during the offseason.

The development of secomd-year players such as Jones, safety Shamarko Thomas and inside linebacker Vince Williams is critical since the Steelers don't like to rely too much on rookies -- something they had to do at a couple of positions last season out of necessity.

“Dick LeBeau's defense takes time to understand it and apply what you know to the field,” Kiper said.

Mike Tomlin talks Moore, Cotchery

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PITTSBURGH -- Mike Tomlin confirmed on Tuesday the prevailing thought after the Pittsburgh Steelers signed former New Orleans Saints wide receiver Lance Moore last Friday following the departure of Jerricho Cotchery.

Markus Wheaton, who played just 152 snaps as a rookie, will get the first crack at filling the starting spot opposite Pro Bowler Antonio Brown, with Moore taking over for Cotchery as the Steelers’ No. 3 wide receiver.

Moore
“Similar to Jerricho, he’s a savvy veteran that is capable of winning above the neck,” Tomlin said of Moore at the NFL owners meetings. “He can create space at break points. He’s done that. He developed a significant rapport with a guy like Drew Brees over the years. Hopefully he will do the same with Ben Roethlisberger.”

The Steelers aren’t done looking for wide receiver help and the most logical place for them to add another player who can contribute next season is through the draft.

An exceptionally strong draft is loaded at wide receiver and the Steelers are expected to take one with one of their first three picks (they have a third-round selection after getting awarded one as a compensatory pick earlier this week).

ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay said he has given 16 wide receivers first-, second- or third-round grades Insider, which is an unusually high number.

Cotchery
“Obviously, we need some quality depth there,” Tomlin said of the Steelers’ situation at wide receiver, “and we will fill that, whether it’s through free agency or through the draft.”

Tomlin was asked about Cotchery at the NFL owners meetings, and it sounds like the seventh-year coach hated to lose the player who led the Steelers with 10 touchdown receptions last season.

The Steelers had hoped to re-sign Cotchery, but the Panthers offered the 10th-year veteran the kind of deal that pushed him out of Pittsburgh’s range.

Cotchery signed a two-year deal worth as much as $5 million, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and the contract includes a $2.25 million signing bonus.

“Jerricho is a savvy veteran, professional player,” Tomlin said. “He is a guy that is always where he is supposed to be when he needs to be there. He will provide that. But aside from the plays, he is a quality human being and professional. He is a blueprint for young players to follow.”

Mike Evans climbs Kiper's 'Big Board'

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PITTSBURGH -- Few players helped themselves more at the NFL scouting combine than Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans.

[+] EnlargeMike Evans
AP Photo/Michael ConroyMike Evans' combination of size and speed means he won't be on the board long come draft day.
That widely shared opinion is reflected in ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr.’s post-combine list of the top 25 players in the draft, and it is not necessarily a good thing for the Steelers.

Evans shot up Kiper’s “Big Board,” moving from No. 15 to No. 6 after performing well in Indianapolis.

Evans, one of the tallest wide receivers in the draft, ran a better-than-expected 4.53 seconds in the 40-yard dash. That speed, along with Evans’ size and ball skills, has solidified his standing as the second-best wide receiver in the draft -- and one who may have run himself out of the Steelers’ reach.

The Steelers have the 15th overall pick in the draft but Evans could be gone before they make their first selection.

Here is what Kiper wrote about Evans on his updated Big Board:
Evans put together an exceptional combine with great speed and leaping ability for a player his size. No player in the draft is better on contested throws, and every quarterback wants a target like this. Evans uses his reach, jumping ability and long frame to beat shorter defenders like a good rebounder (and he was a good rebounder on the basketball court). I've been concerned about his off-the-line quickness, but he clearly has good top-end speed. Evans could also be a versatile threat -- used on the edge or in the slot to create matchup problems -- because you simply can't defend his size. Seems likely to land in the top 10 now.

Evans did not make as big a jump on ESPN analyst Todd McShay’s list of the top 32 players in the draft, but had already been in the top 10 and he moved up a spot to No. 7. Here is what McShay wrote in a post-combine update of his top 32 prospects:
[Evans] showcased excellent hands during the gauntlet drill at the combine, and his 4.53 40 time is good for a receiver his size. I've been describing him as a pit bull in terms of his on-field competitiveness; he is one of the best receivers I've ever seen in terms of coming down with contested catches, and he is the most proven downfield threat in this class. I expect him to come off the board somewhere between Nos. 10 and 20.

Southern Cal wide receiver Marqise Lee is No. 15 on Kiper's Big Board while McShay has Louisville safety Calvin Pryor as the 15th-best prospect in the draft. Pryor is one spot ahead of Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
PITTSBURGH -- ESPN NFL draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay have the Pittsburgh Steelers taking Notre Dame defensive tackle Louis Nix III in the two mock drafts each has done to this point.

McLendon
Cian Fahey of Football Outsiders provided insight into why the Steelers need to address the middle of their defensive line. Fahey wrote that nose tackle is the Steelers’ biggest need because Steve McLendon did not prove to be a good enough replacement for five-time Pro Bowler Casey Hampton.

McLendon, according to Football Outsiders, made his average tackle following a gain of 3.0 yards, the worst of any starting nose tackle in a 3-4 defense last season.

The Steelers slipped to 20th in the NFL in defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA), according to Football Outsiders. Last season marked the first time in five years that the Steelers did not finish in the top 10 in either rushing or passing DVOA. And the Steelers allowed 125 rushing yards per game last season after surrendering just 95 rushing yards per game in 2012.

Here is an excerpt from what Fahey wrote regarding the Steelers’ need at nose tackle:

    Everything the Steelers do on defense is predicated on their ability to stop the run. The most important run defender in Dick LeBeau's scheme is the nose tackle. Casey Hampton excelled in that role for years before Steve McLendon took over last season. McLendon had thrived in a pass-rushing role, but he struggled to sustain quality play as a full-time starter at the nose.

NFL draft watch: DT Aaron Donald

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PITTSBURGH -- Aaron Donald has continued at the Senior Bowl what he did during a storied a career at Pitt.

[+] EnlargeAaron Donald
AP Photo/Johnny VyThe Steelers have the advantage of familiarity with Pitt's Aaron Donald but have to wonder whether he fits into their defensive scheme.
The Penn Hills High School graduate has been the hardest player to block during practices, according to anyone within three zip codes of Mobile, Ala. No less an NFL draft authority than the NFL Network's Mike Mayock has compared Donald to Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins.

Whoa.

ESPN's NFL draft experts on the ground are similarly impressed with Donald. Here is one item from a story that Todd McShay, Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl collaborated on after watching the Senior Bowl practices: "Donald showed the ability to beat offensive linemen with quickness, power and active hands, and his ability to do it so many different ways make it that much harder to keep him off the quarterback."

Sounds like a player who will really help a team.

And the Steelers should know as much if not more about Donald than any other team by the time the NFL draft rolls around in May.

Pitt shares a practice facility with the Steelers, and general manager Kevin Colbert has said the team does more homework on local prospects because proximity provides that advantage -- and because the Steelers don't want to let a potential great player get away.

The problem with Donald: He clearly is a better fit in 4-3 defense as an attacking tackle rather than a hold-the-point-of-attack end in a 3-4 scheme.

The 6-foot, 288-pound Donald is probably too small to play nose tackle in a 3-4 defense and would likely be miscast in that role, too.

But he also seems like a classic case of player who transcends measurables and can play regardless of scheme. The Steelers, I'm guessing, would love to keep Donald in Pittsburgh but their top picks will be used on players who are better fits for them and fill a need.

And since it is unlikely that Donald lasts beyond the second round of the draft, he will probably continue his football career outside of Pittsburgh.

Mock draft has Bengals thinking DE

December, 18, 2013
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CINCINNATI -- The NFL draft may still be some five months away, but ESPN draft guru Todd McShay is already knocking out mocks.

McShay published the first installment of his 2014 mock draft Insider on Wednesday, outlining the top 32 picks as he sees them right now. (You'll need ESPN Insider access to see the complete list.) Although the final draft order is not yet known, he used ESPN Stats & Information's draft order that takes into account team winning percentages through Week 15 of the season. The mock also includes draft-eligible underclassmen who McShay believes will make the jump once the college football bowl season ends.

One of those underclassmen is Oregon State defensive end Scott Crichton. The 6-foot-3, 260-pound lineman would be a possibility for the Bengals at No. 24 depending upon what they do with current defensive end Michael Johnson. There is a good chance the Bengals let go of the franchise-tagged fifth-year player after this season since he likely will end up commanding too much money in a re-signing. Johnson has played well for much of his career, but particularly so in the last two seasons. He had a career-high 11.5 sacks last year, and is on pace to set a new career mark in tackles this year.

By signing defensive tackle Geno Atkins to a five-year, $55 million deal in September and inking fellow end Carlos Dunlap to a six-year, $40 million deal back in July, the Bengals made it difficult to spread the cash when Johnson will be ready to renegotiate again this offseason. The Bengals also might be looking into renegotiating the deals of receiver A.J. Green and quarterback Andy Dalton. Both of their contracts expire after the 2014 season.

So, if Cincinnati is unable to retain Johnson, a defensive end would be a worthy selection in the first round. Also of immediate concern to the Bengals: linebackers, cornerbacks, safeties and offensive tackles.

Here's what McShay had to say about Crichton:

"This pick is dependent upon whether the Bengals decide they want to pay Michael Johnson this offseason. If they let him go, then Crichton fits the bill as a replacement. We'll have to see whether he comes out early or not, but he has been unbelievably productive at Oregon State and one of the best d-linemen in college football the past couple of years. He isn't an elite athlete but he has a quick first step, is a relentless pass-rusher and recorded 16 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks this season even while facing a ton of double-team attention. If the Bengals choose to go in another direction, LB and CB are two other need areas."

Crichton's Insider player card Insider calls him a productive, vocal and durable player.

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