NFL Draft Review: AFC North



Another solid draft for Pittsburgh. At the top, the AFC champs addressed both lines. Cameron Heyward can play inside or outside in the 3-4 and along with D’Qwan Bowers has the biggest upside at the position. The Steelers continue to rebuild their aging D-line, Heyward is a nice complement to Ziggy Hood. Offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert also has excellent upside. Like Heyward, Gilbert has the versatility to play multiple positions and could contribute at both guard and tackle as Pittsburgh has a need at both. Texas defensive back Curtis Brown should also be part of the rotation as a rookie. Brown also excels on special teams both as a return man and as a gunner.

The Cleveland Browns were the recipient of a draft day gift courtesy of Atlanta. The Falcons giving up five elite picks for the right to move up to take Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones.  Baylor defensive tackle Phil Taylor is a load and should start from day one as Cleveland moves from the 3-4 to the 4-3. Pitt’s Jabaal Sheard was a nice pickup in round two and will provide rush on the edge. With their extra 2nd rounder, Colt McCoy gets a much-needed target in North Carolina wide receiver Greg Little.  One of many Tar Heels sitting out 2010 due to off the field issues, Little is tremendous running after the catch. The Browns went to the Pac 10 in the 4th round, getting Southern Cal tight end Cameron Jordan and Stanford  fullback Owen Marecic. Jordan, a former basketball player brings athleticism to the position, while Marecic was a two way star for the Cardinal. With Peyton Hills at tail back following the lead blocking of Marecic. the Browns should have a nice power running game.  The gift keeps on giving as the Browns will have Atlanta’s 1st and 4th round picks in the 2012 draft.

Three teams are the prototype for rebuilding through the draft while staying competitive. The New England Patriots, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore identified two players that fit a need prior to the draft and got them both.  Colorado Jimmy Smith was a top-15 talent that slipped due to “character” concerns. Smith was the second best cover corner in the draft, behind only the freakish Patrick Peterson. Age is creeping up on the Ravens defense and Smith may push for a starting role in September.  Baltimore picked up the fast, athletic receiver they needed in local product Torrey Smith. Smith was electrifying in the return game at Maryland and will be the perfect complement to Anquan Boldin. Jay Reid arrives from Central Florida and projects as the long-term bookend offensive tackle with Michael Oher. I like what the Ravens did at the end of the draft getting Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor and Georgia Tech running back Anthony Allen. GM Ozzie Newsome is raving about what Taylor may add, while Allen is a nice power back option to supplement Ray Rice.

The Cincinnati Bengals are at a crossroads as older big name players are moving on. Quarterback Carson Palmer and receivers Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens appear to be moving on. A.J, Green was the most complete receiver in the class and will start from day one. Green and Jordan Shipley should be a nice combination for years to come. What will the Bengals do at quarterback? Andy Dalton was the man they targeted and they were elated to pick him up in the second round. Dalton appears a perfect fit for new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden’s west coast offense. LB Dontay Moch runs an amazing 4.4 and brings athleticism to the linebacker corps. Along with former USC studs Rey Maualuga and Keith Rivers, Cincinnati appears to be in good shape at linebacker for quite some time.

Tomorrow we review the AFC South