Don't overlook AFC North
Mailbag: Ravens, Steelers, Bengals all had productive offseasons
Much has been made about the amazing buildup of the NFC West, but some attention should go to the AFC North.No doubt, the NFC West has become the most improved division in football over the past couple of years. The Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers are drawing support in Vegas and in polls as being the No. 1 teams in football. The St. Louis Rams are much improved. The Arizona Cardinals might be a .500 team if Carson Palmer stays healthy.The Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals didn't draw the headlines for what they did during the offseason, but their work has been solid.
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From the inbox
Q: As a Lions lifer, I'm sure you can understand that I have a hard time putting faith in the front office. If the Steelers, Giants, Ravens or any other organization with a track record of developing talent had drafted Ezekiel Ansah, I'd get the Jason Pierre-Paul comparisons. But these are the Lions. And if he's a project, can he really be counted on to contribute to an aspiring playoff contender right away? Please give me a reason to feel good about this pick.Will in DetroitA: Ansah has great potential and the Lions have demonstrated a great ability to pick defensive linemen. Plus, head coach Jim Schwartz has a good grasp of talent along the defensive line. He has worked with Bill Belichick and Jeff Fisher. I think you can put their trust in them. The Lions needed a pass-rushing defensive end. Schwartz has a scheme that should allow Ansah to do well. One player doesn't take a team to the playoffs, but Ansah is a player who can help this team. I'd feel good about it if I were you.
Kevin in Tempe, Ariz., wonders whether the Arizona Cardinals or Cleveland Browns would consider signing Tim Tebow now that the Jets have released him. I don't think either franchise has any interest. Tebow is going to struggle to find a quarterback job in this league, sorry to say. Dennis in Bremerton, Wash., asks if the Minnesota Vikings gave up too much in trading up for Cordarrelle Patterson. I don't think so. To move up from the 52nd pick to No. 29, the Vikings gave up a No. 3, a No. 4 and a No. 7. Patterson may struggle to pick up the offense as a rookie, but he is a great talent. Remember, the Vikings received a No. 1 this year and a No. 3 next year for Percy Harvin. I wouldn't say this was a bargain if he works out, but it's not a bad price to pay to fill the need at wide receiver. In regards to Tebow, Scott in Gresham, Ore., doesn't know why no one has mentioned the similarities between Tebow and Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson, who was a quarterback at Penn State. Scott notes that both players were dual threats at quarterback in college and Heisman candidates. He notes both players are about the same size. He adds that both are good football players. I think your comparison is completely valid and right. The problem is Tebow hasn't acknowledged he wants to make the transition to another position like Robinson did. Until that happens, Tebow can't be the next Robinson. Mike in San Francisco wonders if the 49ers' drafting of Quinton Patton in the fifth round shows they are giving up on A.J. Jenkins. I wouldn't say they are giving up on Jenkins, but he has to be concerned. Getting Patton in the fourth round was a great value pick. But it wouldn't surprise me if Patton comes out of camp ahead of Jenkins, last year's first-round pick. Thomas B. in San Antonio wasn't a big fan of the Houston Texans' draft. He gives it a C. I'd give it a B. I like the selection of DeAndre Hopkins in the first round. I wouldn't be surprised if he comes out with a 50- to 60-catch season. Rich in Springfield, Mo., disagrees with my assessment of the Chip Kelly situation. I contend what happens in college stays in college. Rich thinks Kelly should be suspended if the NCAA finds him guilty of wrongdoing. Your point is noted. Keith in Lubbock, Texas, knows the problems the Green Bay Packers had with injuries along both sides of the line and wonders if there will be impact there from draftees other than Datone Jones, the first-round pick. It's not out of the question, but the Packers waited until the fourth round to take a couple of blockers, so I would say they would be more developmental players than impact.
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