Ted Sundquist's AFC North Draft Needs

The AFC North sported two of the best teams in the NFL for 2008 and two of the worst as well.  The reliability and stability of the Pittsburgh Steelers resulted in yet another Super Bowl Championship.  My congratulations once again goes out to a franchise that clearly “gets it” in just about every scenario, category, situation, and otherwise decision-making process.  The Baltimore Ravens rode a surprising season from a rookie head coach and rookie QB that put them on the brink of a trip to Tampa.  Cleveland and Cincinnati appear once again to be reaping the fruits of their labor in the regular season with picks #5 & #6 in this year’s draft.  Reload, rebuild, or repeat seems to be mantra of the AFC North.
Baltimore Ravens
Primary Need:  Wide Receiver
The Ravens appear to have found a franchise QB in Joe Flacco for years to come.  Flacco was cool under the pressure of being a rookie QB in the NFL and guiding a predominantly veteran team.  There was a learning curve for sure, but the value of making a push deep in the playoffs will clearly pay dividends in the development of the young QB.  What G.M. Ozzie Newsome needs to ensure is that Flacco is surrounded with enough weapons on “his side” of the ball.  WR Derrick Mason finished 11th in the NFL at the position and his 67% catch rate was certainly solid against his peers.  After that came Mark Clayton ranked 61st and just at a 50%.  Though a former first round pick himself, the Ravens need more production from the position and there could be a number of promising prospects at #26.
Possible targets:  Receiver Percy Harvin (Florida), receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (Maryland), receiver Hakeem Nicks (North Carolina).
Cincinnati Bengals
Primary need:  Offensive Tackle
Lack of talent on the offensive line and picking number 6 overall in a draft deep with OT’s makes for the perfect storm.  The type of money that will be doled out in the top 10 requires no affordability for a miss.  You have to find a starting, productive player at this position for the next 5 to 6 years, then hope to roll him over with an extension and avoid free agency.  OT’s give you the greatest probability of accomplishing just that and with a “gimpy” Carson Palmer at QB you’d better ensure the franchise is well protected.  The Bengals were 32nd in adjusted line yards via the rush, 29th in power runs at 58% and 27th  in adjusted sack rate or sacks per attempt (8.5%).  The Brown family is most likely understanding this and focusing directly on one of the top 3 OT’s in the 2009 draft.  It’s safe to say that Andre Smith has worked himself out of the first tackle picked, so whoever’s left between Eugene Monroe and Jason Smith could well determine the Bengals first round pick.
Possible targets:  tackle Eugene Monroe (Virginia); tackle Jason Smith (Baylor); tackle Andre Smith (Alabama).
Cleveland Browns
Primary need:  Skill on Offense
It won’t matter who the QB is in Cleveland (Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson) if they don’t find him someone to hand or throw the ball to.  Since 2000, the Browns have drafted in the top two rounds WR Dennis Northcutt, WR Quincy Morgan, WR Andre Davis, RB William Green, TE Kellen Winslow, WR Braylon Edwards & QB Brady Quinn.  Entering ’09 they find themselves still lacking in offensive playmakers and only two of the above remaining on the roster.  The Browns may very well be in a striking distance of adding a franchise caliber player to Eric Mangini’s offense.  Don’t look for Detroit, St. Louis, or Kansas City to head in the direction of skilled offense.  Seattle doesn’t appear seriously interested either.  That very well could give Cleveland first “dibs” on game changers via the air or on the ground.  WR has historically proven the more productive of the two positions within the top 10 (over the course of the earlier sighted study).
Possible targets:  running back Knowshon Moreno (Georgia), receiver Michael Crabtree (Texas Tech), receiver Jeremy Maclin (Missouri).
Pittsburgh Steelers
Primary need:  Who knows?
Sticking with my primary research source for need areas it appears that the defending Super Bowl Champions have very few holes to fill.  The defense was dominant in finishing 1st in the overall rankings by Football Outsiders.  The offense has never been the equivalent of their defensive counterparts, but they are extremely efficient in what they do and tend not to make very many mistakes.  With that said, everything starts up front and I have to like what I see in a number of mock drafts that have the Steelers taking an offensive lineman.  Cal’s OC Alex Mack fits the mold for a Steeler center; smart, tough, strong and quick.  Mack could fill the interior for years to come as Ray Mansfield, Mike Webster, Dermotti Dawson, and Jeff Hartings did over the course of four decades.  Mack played OG in the Senior Bowl and might very well serve as an interior swing OC/OG until ready to take over for the incumbent Justin Hartwig.
Possible target:  center Alex Mack (California).

5 responses to “Ted Sundquist's AFC North Draft Needs

  1. Nice work Ted – thank you for your contributions to the site — much appreciated.
    And by the way, I would love it if we picked up Mack – he would be a perfect fit. As you noted, we have been spoiled at center for most of our whole lives — and it would be nice to secure that spot again for the next dozen years or so. We also could use some help at all three interior OL positions, further reinforcing how sweet it’d be to land Mack 32 picks deep.
    Thanks again man – enjoy the draft.

  2. How can this guy completely overlook the Browns’ need for DEFENSE?
    Oh, he used to work for Denver?
    Nowwww I get it.

  3. “twindaddy says:
    April 25th, 2009 at 9:56 am
    You’re awfully naive if you think the Brown family understands anything”
    Yup, the family of Paul was bred to only understand money.
    Keep Mike away from making draft decisions and Marvin Lewis may have a chance. However, that is impossible. The man who picked Kijana Carter, David Klingler, Akili Smith, Chris Perry, Justin Smith, et al cannot be denied his due on draft day.
    Beware of the Smith 1st round curse!

  4. What do you mean “who knows?” ?? Just because they won the Super Bowl does not mean they don’t have needs. The offensive line is old and weak, most sacks allowed. Their secondary is thin and they Darren McFadden. And the defensive line is OLD. I’d like to see the first three picks go 2 o-line and 1 in the secondary.

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