In the article about the NFC West we talked about how good the level of playing was for all four teams, which would make that division fun to watch. Even though the four teams in the AFC North may not as a whole be on the same level as the NFC West, it was still the closest division in football and I don’t think this year will be any different. The Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, and Pittsburgh Steelers are known for rough, tough, punch you in the face football. As all four teams try to strengthen their grip on a crazy division, they all have made some good strides in the offseason. Below are the Remaining AFC North Team Needs.
Baltimore Ravens – I recently said the Miami Dolphins were the 1st team that I came across that had no identifiable large team need. Well, I’ve run into my 2nd team and the Baltimore Ravens filled their two biggest holes with their 1st two picks if the draft. By drafting Breshad Perriman in the 1st round, they will be filling the gap left by Torrey Smith. When they came back in round two and selected the consensus top TE Maxx Williams, they ensured that the Ravens will be a top team to deal with this year. Ravens fans have a lot to look forward to this year.
Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals already had one of the most talented rosters in the league. That was the reason I picked them to go to the Superbowl last year. With their play of their o-line and d-line, they took a big step back. With the additions of OT Cedric Ogbuehi and OT Jake Fisher to go with a healthy Geno Atkins, the Bengals are back to being scary good. The draft filled their need at OT and they can now move around the other linemen to fill their other need at Center. There still is one more spot that I think they need to address:
Defensive Tackle – This is only a need because Domata Peko took a step back last year. With Atkins being Atkins, it may free up Peko more and allow him to be back to being the big run stuffer that he was in previous years.
Cleveland Browns – A lot of people liked the Browns draft, I didn’t. I had the Browns listed as having five big team needs before the draft and I don’t think they legitimately addressed any of them. Don’t get me wrong, the players they DID get have loads of talent. Danny Shelton, who was my favorite defensive player in the draft, and Cameron Erving, who was the best Center in the draft, were both GREAT picks, I just don’t think it was picks that they needed to help this team. They truly stayed to best player available, but because of that, they still have big holes at the following positions:
Quarterback – They didn’t even try to take a project QB like Brent Hundley, Bryce Petty, or Sean Mannion. They will start the year with Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel as their backup (sigh).
Wide Receiver – With Josh Gordon gone for who knows how long, this was another position of great need. They didn’t take one until round four and the starters will be Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline (sign again).
Tight End – The Brown lost Jordan Cameron and currently has Arizona Cardinals castoff Rob Housler as their starter, who has never topped 45 catches, or 454 yards, and has 1 career TD in four years as a pro (you know what I’m doing).
Right Tackle – Even though they took an OL in Erving, he has played Guard and Tackle before, so this may not be as big of a need, but he isn’t as good at Guard or Tackle as he is at Center, so to me, it’s still wasted talent.
Inside Linebacker – Okay, I may be picking on them a little here. However, Karlos Dansby isn’t getting any younger (33) and his started to curtail down last year.
Pittsburgh Steelers – I’m going to judge the Steelers draft off of needs met rather than talent for their positions. First off, I want to say Bud Dupree was arguably the steal of the draft and is my pick to win defensive rookie of the year. Other than that, they did fill a need at CB with 2nd round pick Senquez Golson, and another need a Safety with 7th round pick Gerod Holliman, who ranged on draft boards from the 2nd round to undrafted. WR Sammie Coates was another steal at a position they are already stacked at. So with all of those picks, it left them with one more position needed:
Right Tackle – I’m very surprised that the Steelers didn’t take a tackle in this draft. I thought the 3rd or 4th round would have been a perfect spot for them to do so. They decided to stick with best player available and took Coates. Is that a bad sign for Markus Wheaton?
The biggest part about the AFC North is stability. Other than the Browns, everything from the front office, to the coaches, to the players screams stability. We’ve seen John Harbaugh on the Raven’s sidelines for 7 years already, Marvin Lewis on the Bengal’s sidelines for a remarkable 12 years already, and Mike Tomlin for 8 years already. This is a division where homefield advantage doesn’t exist, secret plays are laughed at and blood and heart mean everything. Welcome to the AFC North, the blood and sweat division of the NFL.
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