We’re going to move on to the AFC North and take a look at the needs of each team. This is the division with some of the worst parity in the league, seen by having a team with 11 wins and another with 1. This isn’t a division where everyone has a chance going into the season and unless some drastic changes are made in Cleveland, it will be that way again. But it’s more than that, only one team had a winning record in the division, and where Baltimore could jump back into the mix, it’s going to be hard to topple Pittsburgh.
2016 Record: 8-8
First Pick: #16
Needs: Outside Linebacker, Wide Receiver, Offensive Tackle, Defensive Line
Analysis: The Ravens addressed a big need by signing for Cardinal safety Tony Jefferson. But that still leaves them with quite a few holes to fill. Zach Orr retired and Terrell Suggs is turning 35, so they will need to find some new linebackers in the draft. They could also use a few Hog Mollies on both sides of the ball… a pass rushing end, a defensive tackle and on the other side a right tackle. And while they’re filling out their shopping list, Joe Flacco would like a new wide receiver to play catch with. There are some really good, big bodied wideouts that should be available in the early rounds.
2016 Record: 6-9
First Pick: #9
Needs: Offensive Line, Linebacker, Pass Rusher, Safety
Analysis: The Bengals have a good quarterback in Andy Dalton as long as he’s on his feet. The problem is the team lost two of their key offensive linemen in Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler to free agency. Pushing the team’s defensive needs at safety, linebacker and defensive end back in priority, which is what kept them from winning more games last year. There are only a few guards and tackles worth of going in the first round, so I could see the Bengals looking at a pass rusher and waiting for o-line help in the second round. They may be looking at a running back for insurance in case Giovanni Bernard doesn’t come back 100% from his ACL injury.
2016 Record: 1-15
First PIck: #1
Needs: Quarterback, Pass Rusher, Defensive Back, Wide Receiver
Analysis: It’s not all bad news for Cleveland. Last year they did a good job of building their offensive line which is difficult. Now they just need to find the rest of the offense and they have two first round, two second round and a third round pick to do it. They made a basketball style trade with the Houston Texans to acquire quarterback Brock Osweiler who they don’t plan on using. The move was to gain draft picks. Looking at the draft there really isn’t a quarterback worthy of the first pick, but when they pick again at later in the first or early in the second would make more sense. So, they have the option of going with the best player available or trading the pick. The consensus on the top player is Myles Garrett, a defensive end from Texas A&M which addresses their pass rushing need. But this is a front office born of the baseball strategy of Money Ball, meaning they’ll trade the pick if they get a good enough offer.
2016 Record: 11-5
First PIck: #30
Needs: Inside and Outside Linebacker, Cornerback, Wide Receiver
Analysis: The Steelers lost Lawrence Timmons to free agency and signed James Harrison to play outside again… this tells us that the linebacking corps needs some serious love. If Harrison can hold up, that still leaves a gap in the middle that needs to be filled. I could see them going for a 3-4 OLB in the first round and then an ILB with either their second or one of their two third round picks. But they also need to get another cornerback and as good as Antonio Brown is as receiver, he needs someone on the opposite side to pull some coverage off of him. The Steelers are a strong team who would love to go with the best player available approach… and they can do that as long as the best player fits one of their needs. They can mix it up a bit, but Linebacker needs to be addressed early and often.