Thursday, April 21, 2011
Draft Watch: AFC North
By James Walker
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Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: dream scenarios and Plan B.
Dream scenario: The Bengals own the best pick in the AFC North at No. 4 overall. The Bengals can go in a lot of different directions. So their dream scenario involves flexibility. Cincinnati, ideally, would like one of the top two quarterbacks -- Auburn's Cam Newton or Missouri's Blaine Gabbert -- to be available at No. 4. That way the Bengals can decide whether they like one of these quarterbacks as Carson Palmer's replacement or entertain trade offers. Cincinnati would be in a position of power at the top of the draft.
Plan B: If both Newton and Gabbert are gone within the first three picks, Plan B would be to fill a need with the highest player on their draft board. Georgia receiver A.J. Green and LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson are two possibilities.
Dream scenario: Cleveland's dream position is pretty similar to Cincinnati's. If one of the top two quarterbacks fall to No. 6, the Browns should have no shortage of interested trade partners looking to draft Newton or Gabbert. The Washington Redskins at No. 10 could be a possible suitor, as well as the Minnesota Vikings at No. 12.
Plan B: If Newton and Gabbert are off the board at No. 6, that increases the chance of Cleveland using the pick. The Browns need receivers and defensive linemen in the worst way. Defensive linemen Marcell Dareus of Auburn and Robert Quinn of North Carolina are possibilities on defense, and on offense Green is the most likely target. A dark horse for the Browns could be Peterson. Secondary help is not Cleveland’s biggest need. But if Peterson is dangling there at No. 6, he may be too good to pass up.
Dream scenario: The Ravens thrive on finding great value picks late in round and have another chance at No. 26. This draft is very deep, and a top-15 talent could be available in the late-20s. The Ravens need offensive linemen and pass-rushers. Therefore, a dream scenario would be for Baltimore to have the ability to choose several players at these positions. Some possible options would be Colorado offensive tackle Nate Solder, Florida guard Mike Pouncey and pass-rusher Ryan Kerrigan of Purdue.
Plan B: The Ravens could also address a lesser need but add talent at wide receiver or corner in the first round. Colorado CB Jimmy Smith could help the Ravens, but he enters the draft with character concerns.
Dream scenario: A dream scenario for the reigning AFC champions would be reuniting Mike Pouncey with his twin brother, Maurkice Pouncey, to anchor the offensive line in Pittsburgh. But the Steelers have the No. 31 pick and know that's probably not going to happen barring a trade up.
Plan B: A more realistic option would be to draft a cornerback, a position the Steelers must upgrade and has little depth. No. 1 corner Ike Taylor and top reserve William Gay are pending free agents, and there's no guarantee either will return. Texas defensive back Aaron Williams and Miami corner Brandon Harris are options. Drafting an offensive linemen also is a possibility.