NFL Nation: University of Alabama

Could Dee Milliner fall to AFC East?

February, 21, 2013
2/21/13
1:10
PM ET
We have our first big injury news from the NFL combine. University of Alabama's Dee Milliner, the draft's top-rated cornerback, has a torn labrum in his shoulder that will require surgery, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports.

Milliner
We haven't discussed Milliner's chances for the AFC East before, because he seemed to be a sure-fire top-five pick before the injury. But Milliner's torn labrum has a chance to drop his stock a few places, which now puts AFC East teams in play.

Milliner would be tremendous value for the Buffalo Bills at No. 8, the New York Jets at No. 9, and especially the Miami Dolphins at No. 12.

Miami is thin at cornerback. Sean Smith is an unrestricted free agent who is questionable to return, Dimitri Patterson could be cap casualty, and Richard Marshall is coming off a season-ending back injury. Milliner would plug into the starting lineup right away for the Dolphins. But chances aren't great that Milliner would drop out of the top 10.

The Bills and Jets have a more realistic chance. Buffalo drafted Stephon Gilmore in the first round last year, so it wouldn't be a huge need. But if Milliner is there at No. 8, it could simply be a case of Buffalo taking the best available player.

The Jets have plenty of cornerbacks. Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie are two of the NFL's best, and No. 3 corner Kyle Wilson looks ready to step in if the Jets trade Revis. If Milliner is available at No. 9, maybe the Jets could trade back and acquire more picks. New York has plenty of holes to fill in other areas.

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

A case can be made that no NFL rookie has had more bad publicity the past several months than Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle Andre Smith.

 Smith

It started with the suspension for Alabama's bowl game. It continued when Smith unexpectedly left February's NFL combine. Then his private workout was considered average at best by scouts and onlookers. Smith also fired his agent once and reportedly is in the middle of more agent drama.

But through all the recent turmoil and bad choices, Smith's talent on the field made him the sixth overall pick by Cincinnati. Drafting that high, the Bengals will invest approximately $50 million in Smith, whose main job is to protect franchise quarterback Carson Palmer from another season-ending injury.

Is Smith worth the risk? The Bengals think so. They recently cut starting left tackle Levi Jones, which all but assures Smith will start right away.

If Smith plays well this year, people will quickly forget the recent missteps. But if Smith struggles or doesn't pan out, many will wonder why the Bengals ignored some of the early red flags during the draft process.

Honorable mention: The Cleveland Browns held the fifth overall pick, and instead of making a big splash, they traded down three times to take University of California center Alex Mack. By most accounts, Mack was the best center in the draft. But the fact that Cleveland could've taken more highly touted players at the top of the draft board certainly puts pressure on Mack to perform. The New York Jets traded places with the Browns and took USC quarterback Mark Sanchez. If Sanchez proves to be a quality franchise quarterback, something Cleveland hasn't had since Bernie Kosar, the Browns could hear about this deal down the road.

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Team needs: Offensive tackle, center, pass-rushing defensive end/linebacker

 
  Paul Jasienski/Getty Images
  An offensive tackle such as Eugene Monroe would provide an upgrade for the Bengals at a critical position.

Dream scenario: Unless five teams in front of Cincinnati have brain cramps, Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith -- arguably the top player in the draft -- will not be available when the Bengals use their sixth overall pick. Smith would be perfect for Cincinnati as he would fill the team's biggest need at left tackle and provide tremendous value at No. 6. University of Virginia left tackle Eugene Monroe would be another solid pick who may be off the board. Injuries have caught up to former Cincinnati first-round pick Levi Jones, so much so that he is no longer a dependable blindside protector for quarterback Carson Palmer, who's suffered two season-ending injuries (knee, elbow) the past four seasons.

Plan B: With Cincinnati possibly in a poor spot to secure one of the draft's two best tackles, the Bengals' focus could shift to taking the best defensive player along the front seven. Cincinnati has drafted a defensive player in the first round the past four years. The result is a sneaky good unit which steadily improved last season and finished No. 12 in total defense, despite little help from the offense. A player such as Texas defensive end/linebacker Brian Orakpo could be a good addition. The Bengals could still address the tackle position as a Plan B if they are desperate enough. They can take a risk on Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith, whose stock has taken a hit this offseason, or reach for Mississippi tackle Michael Oher, who is widely considered a mid first-round prospect. The recent flirtations with running backs and receivers the past couple of weeks appear to be more smoke screens than substance. Those positions are likely targets in the second and middle rounds.

Scouts Inc.'s take: "The offensive line certainly needs work, and a major weakness of this team that sometimes goes unidentified is the center position. In their division, the Bengals play six games against Shaun Rogers, Casey Hampton and Haloti Ngata. They were trying to get by with Eric Ghiaciuc, who is 280 pounds and he just gets manhandled. They had no inside running attack against those three divisional teams because they couldn't handle the 3-4 nose tackles. That's a huge disadvantage. But in the first round I think they can go a lot of different ways. I like their defense. I don't think their defense is as bad off as it usually is. But, boy, do they need a pass-rusher. They need a difference-maker, and Orakpo makes a lot of sense for them to rotate in with the defensive ends they already have." -- Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc.

Who has final say: With a miniature scouting department, the Bengals' coaches are responsible for a significant chunk of talent evaluation. That gives head coach Marvin Lewis' staff a decent amount of input. But the final call on all major decisions usually must go through the ownership level with the Mike Brown family.

Now On the Clock: Cleveland Browns, April 13.

Previous On the Clock: Oakland Raiders. The team-by-team series.

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