NFL Draft Preview: AFC North

Read our complete 2006 NFL Draft Coverage!

Baltimore Ravens
Current 1st Round Draft Position: 13th
Top Team Needs: QB, S, LB, OT, OG

QB: The reign of Kyle Boller is almost over. Boller has failed to establish himself as a capable starter in the NFL and the Ravens are likely to use a first day pick on a QB they can groom for the future. The team may use a first round pick on one, but it’s more likely to be rounds 2 or 3 as they will likely add either Steve McNair (if he’s released by the Titans) or Kerry Collins (if McNair isn’t released).

S: After losing Will Demps in free agency, the Ravens need someone to start with Ed Reed. The free agent pickings left are slim so it will be a position addressed on day one.

LB: Ray Lewis simply isn’t getting any younger, and while he is still a solid starter, he’s not the dominant ILB he’s been in the past. Age and injuries have caught up with him to a degree. And while Adalius Thomas is one solid OLB, neither Bart Scott nor Gary Stills are special opposite him.

OT: Jonathan Ogden continues to be an elite LT, but entering his 11th season, the team might be wise to start looking to groom someone now. But the real immediate need is on the right side. Re-signing Tony Pashos was a smart move, but he’s not the long term answer and last years second round pick, Adam Terry didn’t impress as much as was hoped for.

OG: If they could combine the skills of Edwin Mulitalo, Keydrick Vincent, and Brian Rimph, they might actually have a really OG. But separated into their individual parts, each lacks the top skills you’d like on the interior.

Cincinnati Bengals
Current 1st Round Draft Position: 24th
Top Team Needs: TE, S, CB, DE

TE: The Bengals offense has lacked production from the TE position for years. Matt Schobel was allowed to go to Philadelphia and with Tony Stewart also likely gone, Reggie Kelly is the only one with any experience left. With this being a good TE draft, it won’t be a surprise to see them snag one in the first 3 rounds.

S: Signing Dexter Jackson helped, but his ability to be a solid starter at SS is in question. Again, this is a good S draft and the Bengals likely address this need for a starter opposite Madieu Williams on the first day. Possibly even in round 1.

CB: Deltha O’Neal is solid on one side, but Tory James opposite him is showing signs of age. Keiwan Ratliffe appears to be better suited as a nickel back. CB is another position the Bengals will look at in round 1.

DE: Justin Smith is a monster, but there’s a need for more pass rush from the right side. Robert Geathers is steady against the run, but unspectacular against the pass. Maybe the Bengals think the signing of massive DT Sam Adams will help free up the LB’s more, but a guy at the end of the line is still important.

Cleveland Browns
Current 1st Round Draft Position: 12th
Top Team Needs: LB, DE, WR, DT

LB: Willie McGinest brings great leadership, but at 34 years of age, his days are numbered. Andra Davis is very good, as is Chaun Thompson. The weak link is Matt Stewart. Stewart lacks the special skills needed in the 3-4. After finishing with a league fewest 23 sacks in 2005, a pass rushing LB will be a top draft priority for the Browns.

DE: Although the LB’s are counted on more for sacks in the 3-4, the DE’s could use some quality depth. Orpheus Roye and Alvin McKinley are stout as starters, but there is little quality depth behind them.

WR: Signing Joe Jurevicius was a smart move as he is basically a more reliable version of departed Antonio Bryant. Braylon Edwards was showing star potential before tearing up his knee last year and he’s questionable to be ready at the start of the season. Dennis Northcutt and Frisman Jackson are okay depth guys, but not able to excel if called upon as a starter. I doubt the Browns take a WR in the first round, but they will take one sometime during the draft.

DT: Getting massive Ted Washington to stuff the interior of the defensive line will immediately help the NFL’s 30th ranked run defense in 2005. But Washington is 38 years old and if McGinest’s days are numbered, Washington’s are numbered in fractions. The Browns need someone they can groom to take over in a year or two, and also be able to spell Washington during the 2006 season.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Current 1st Round Draft Position: 32nd
Top Team Needs: WR, DE, S, C, RB

WR: The loss of Antwaan Randle El to the Washington Redskins moves Cedrick Wilson into a starting role. Wilson may be able to step up to the challenge, but he doesn’t have the versatility of Randle El. The Steelers seem to like having WR’s who can be triple threats so they may go after someone who, like Randle El, was a college QB, but is projected to be a WR.

DE: The Steelers are hopeful Brett Keisel will step in to replace departed Kimo von Oelhoffen, but with the importance of this position in their 3-4 alignment, they will be looking hard at this position on day one.

S: Losing Free Safety Chris Hope to the Tennessee Titans hurt and the jury is still out on his replacement, Ryan Clark. Clark is a good run stuffing FS, but is a bit small. It won’t be a surprise to see the Steelers look for a bigger guy at the position on day one.

C: Jeff Hartings is solid, but will be 34 when the season starts. Backup Chukky Okobi hasn’t shown he’ll be the eventual replacement. This isn’t a great draft for the Center position, but the Steelers may look to one on day 2.

RB: Between Willie Parker and Duce Staley, the Steelers really don’t have a need for a starting RB. But neither of them is the big, brutish style of RB Jerome Bettis was and therefore it is very likely the Steelers will look for a big power RB at some point during the draft.

See Russ's other 2006 NFL Draft articles:

Russ Bliss is FantasyFootballStarters.com's exclusive fantasy football expert, a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, and for 10 years has been the radio host of "The Red Zone, Talking Fantasy Football and the NFL," in Phoenix, Arizona.

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