2012 NFL Draft Team Needs: AFC North

With the 2012 NFL Draft only days away, we are taking a look at the top needs for each team, division by division. Today we head to the AFC North, and, if you missed it, check out the AFC East from Tuesday. Got a player you want your team to target? Let me know in the comments.

Also, be sure to take a look at our massive 2012 Pre-Draft Rookie Report, which takes an in-depth look at all the top fantasy prospects.

Baltimore Ravens

Picks: 29, 60, 91, 130, 164, 169, 198, 236

Top Needs:

1. Guard – The Ravens lost Pro Bowl LG Ben Grubbs in free agency to New Orleans, leaving them very thin at that spot. At the moment, 2011 3rd-round pick Jah Reid is expected to move from tackle to guard and start in place of Grubbs, but the Ravens could use some competition there. Guard is not always a position that’s in demand in the 1st round, but Wisconsin’s Kevin Zeitler would make sense with the 29th overall pick. Wisconsin C Peter Konz could also be a target with Matt Birk now 35 years old.

2. Linebacker – The Ravens could add help both inside and outside in their 3-4 scheme. On the outside, Paul Kruger will likely slide into the starting lineup opposite Terrell Suggs to replace Jarret Johnson, but the Ravens could draft someone to compete with Kruger and Sergio Kindle. On the inside, Ray Lewis is 36 years old and clearly isn’t the player he once was, so the Ravens may look to the future by adding a young player on the inside. Clemson’s Andre Branch may be a target on the outside, while Alabama’s Dont’a Hightower could be the pick if the Ravens pick address the inside.

3. Safety – It’s unclear how much longer star FS Ed Reed will play, and the Ravens also lost Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski. in free agency. While they still have Bernard Pollard at SS and signed Sean Considine, it may be time to start thinking about the future. Reed is 33, and Pollard is essentially an extra LB on the field because he’s great against the run but struggles in coverage. The Ravens could consider Notre Dame S Harrison Smith early.

Fantasy Outlook: The Ravens will probably draft another WR after spending picks on Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss. The Ravens are counting on Doss to step up and contribute after he didn’t really see the field much as a rookie, while hopefully Smith can develop into a more complete receiver with a full off-season. The disappointing Lee Evans is gone, but veteran possession receiver Anquan Boldin remains, so the unit could be okay. A 3rd- or 4th-round WR like Wisconsin’s Nick Toon would make sense, though, to add depth to the unit. Elsewhere, the Ravens are now thin at RB behind Ray Rice thanks to the retirement of Ricky Williams, so they could try to do that through the draft with a mid-round pick like Tennessee’s Tauren Poole or Baylor’s Terrance Ganaway.

Cincinnati Bengals

Picks: 17, 21, 53, 83, 116, 156, 166, 191

Top Needs:

1. Wide Receiver – The Bengals hit a home run last year by drafting A.J. Green early, and he certainly looks like he’ll be a #1 WR for many years. But there’s a big hole at the #2 WR spot. The inconsistent Jerome Simpson is a free agent and Andre Caldwell signed with the Broncos, and while Jordan Shipley will return from injury, he’s a slot receiver – and so is Andrew Hawkins. With two 1st-round picks, the Bengals could take one in the 1st round again, especially if Michael Floyd falls. If not, Illinois’ A.J. Jenkins and South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery are both 2nd-round possibilities.

2. Guard – The Bengals are already set to have two new starting guards, as free agents Travelle Wharton and Jacob Bell will likely replace Nate Livings and Bobbie Williams. The Bengals should be fine with Wharton, the former Panther, but, with two 1st-round picks, they have a shot at Stanford G David DeCastro, who would likely be able to start right away over Bell.

3. Cornerback – The Bengals re-signed Pacman Jones and signed Terence Newman Jason Allen to join Leon Hall and Nate Clements, but Hall is coming off a torn Achilles and Clements and Newman are both inconsistent. With two 1st-round picks, the Bengals are in prime position to draft Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick, South Carolina’s Stephon Gilmore, or even North Alabama’s Janoris Jenkins, if they can get over his character concerns, if they want to keep an eye on the future.

Fantasy Outlook: Wide receiver is clearly the biggest need, as the Bengals are set in the rest of the passing game with young QB Andy Dalton and young TE Jermaine Gresham. That leaves RB, where Cedric Benson is gone and the Bengals signed BenJarvus Green-Ellis to pair with Bernard Scott. Can Green-Ellis really be a featured back, though, especially for a team that needs to run the ball? The Bengals could go several directions with their three picks in the first two rounds, and RBs like Virginia Tech’s David Wilson and Boise State’s Doug Martin are definitely options.

Cleveland Browns

Picks: 4, 22, 37, 67, 100, 118, 139, 160, 204, 205, 211, 245, 247

Top Needs:

1. Running Back – With a limited quarterback in Colt McCoy, the Browns desperately need to be able to consistently run the football with a sustaining back. Peyton Hillis is gone, and that leaves the Browns with Montario Hardesty, Chris Ogbonnaya, and Brandon Jackson. All are solid complementary pieces in their own way, but it’s pretty clear that the Browns don’t have

The Browns need a lot of help across the board for fantasy, but replacing Peyton Hillis with Trent Richardson would be a good start.

someone who can be the foundation of the offense. It’s quite possible that the Browns will opt for a quarterback or wide receiver with their first pick, and arguments can be made for both. However, the best pick for the Browns is Alabama RB Trent Richardson, who is the best RB prospect since Adrian Peterson. Richardson is a pro-ready runner capable of playing every down in the NFL, and his presence would really help the offense as a whole. If they wait, they could take someone like Boise State’s Doug Martin in the 2nd round.

2. Wide Receiver – Does it matter who your QB is if no one gets open? QB Colt McCoy certainly isn’t the answer, but it doesn’t help that the Browns have given him little help out wide. They did make a good move by drafting Greg Little in the 1st round last year, and he has the talent to develop into a #1 WR, but he has to become more consistent and avoid drops. Aside from Little, the Browns have Mohamed Massaquoi, who has been unable to establish himself as a viable threat on the outside, the versatile Josh Cribbs, slot receiver Jordan Norwood, and the unproven Carlton Mitchell. The Browns will surely consider Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon with the #4 overall pick, but they’re better off taking RB Trent Richardson and grabbing a WR like LSU’s Rueben Randle or Baylor’s Kendall Wright with the 22nd pick or Wake Forest’s Chris Givens or Illinois’ A.J. Jenkins on Day Two.

3. Quarterback – If you want to rank QB #1 on this list, that’s perfectly fine. Colt McCoy is a limited player and does not appear to be the long-term answer, so the Browns definitely need an upgrade, especially after not landing a free agent like Matt Flynn. With Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III out of the picture, they’ll take a long look at Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill with the 4th overall pick, and an argument can certainly be made that he’s worth it. If they opt for a RB or WR, they could also grab competition for McCoy in the 2nd round by picking Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden.

Fantasy Outlook: Well, given that we have QB, RB, and WR as the Browns’ top needs it’s pretty clear that they need massive upgrades for fantasy. The good news is that they have two 1st-round picks. See above for further explanation.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Picks: 24, 56, 86, 119, 159, 193, 231, 240, 246, 248

Top Needs:

1. Offensive Line – The Steelers are set at C with Maurkice Pouncey, but, other than that, this has been an extremely unreliable unit over the last two years because of injuries. Marcus Gilbert will likely start at LT, while Willie Colon, who’s played in just one game in the last two seasons, is currently at the RT spot. Obviously, Colon is a big concern, and the Steelers also need help at LG, where Doug Legursky is the current starter. With the 24th pick, there’s a good chance the Steelers will address the offensive line, with Ohio State OT Mike Adams, Georgia G/T Cordy Glenn, and Wisconsin G Kevin Zeitler among the possibilities.

2. Nose TackleCasey Hampton has been a mainstay on the nose of the Steelers’ 3-4 defense for a decade, but he’s coming off a torn ACL and is a question mark heading into the season. Backup Chris Hoke is gone, leaving the Steelers with little experience at the position, although Ziggy Hood could shift inside. Washington NT Alameda Ta’amu may be worth targeting on Day Two. Depending on what the Steelers decide to do with the position, DE and ILB are possibilities as well in the front seven.

3. Cornerback – The Steelers are set at one CB spot with Ike Taylor, but the other spot is a question mark with William Gay off to Arizona. For now, that leaves second-year corner Curtis Brown, Keenan Lewis, Walter McFadden, and Cortez Allen in the mix for playing time. Someone like UCF’s Josh Robinson may be a target for the Steelers in the 2nd round.

Fantasy Outlook: With a lot of departures and few signings, the Steelers have a lot of question marks, but, fortunately, they still look good, for the most part, for fantasy. However, the big question is the health of RB Rashard Mendenhall, who tore his ACL and will probably start the season on the PUP list, leaving the Steelers with Isaac Redman, John Clay, and Jonathan Dwyer. It’s tough to tell what the Steelers will do with the position, and it’s not like there are many free agents to target. It’s certainly possible they’ll consider Boise State’s Doug Martin or Virginia Tech’s David Wilson if they’re on the board in the 2nd round. Elsewhere, assuming the Steelers are able to keep RFA Mike Wallace, they should be fine at WR, and it’s doubtful that TE will be made a priority in this draft.

-Matt Brown

Category: Fantasy Guru Daily

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  1. [...] Today we head to the AFC South, and, if you missed it, check out the AFC East from Tuesday and the AFC North from Wednesday. Got a player you want your team to target? Let me know in the [...]

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