Published On: Sat, Apr 14th, 2018

Identifying the biggest need for every AFC North team

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theScore goes division by division to identify the biggest positional needs for all 32 NFL teams entering the 2018 draft, which will be held from April 26-28.


Baltimore Ravens

Biggest need: TE
Secondary needs: QB, WR, DE

The Ravens need to get younger, faster, and simply more talented on offense to compensate for Joe Flacco‘s declining performances. The additions of free-agent wide receivers Michael Crabtree and John Brown address the Ravens’ lack of outside weapons to a certain degree, allowing Baltimore to focus more on revamping the tight end position.

The unproductive Nick Boyle and the oft-injured Maxx Williams sit atop the depth chart, so it’s necessary the team finds that athletic, big-bodied mismatch-type tight end who can provide Flacco with a stabilizing target over the middle of the field and in key situations.

Flacco is the Ravens’ biggest weakness, but his mammoth contract locks him in as the team’s starter. Baltimore using one of its top picks on Flacco’s successor, though, remains a strong possibility considering the strength of this quarterback class.

Potential draft targets: This year’s tight end group lacks elite prospects, so top names such as Mike Gesicki, Hayden Hurst, and Mark Andrews may be available for Baltimore in the second round. Andrews, a former receiver, could be the Ravens’ best option if they’re looking for someone who will operate primarily as a pass-catcher.

If Baltimore does target a quarterback in the first or second round, Lamar Jackson and Mason Rudolph are the most likely options. Jackson would suit sitting behind Flacco for a season so he can improve his footwork and accuracy, while Rudolph is the kind of great downfield passer Flacco was earlier in his career.

Cincinnati Bengals

Biggest need: OL
Secondary needs: TE, QB, LB

The Bengals‘ offensive line play severely deteriorated in 2017 after the losses of Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler in free agency, and while the trade for Cordy Glenn fixes the left tackle spot – provided he can stay healthy – Cincinnati still has significant work to do on the rest of the unit.

A replacement for center Russell Bodine should be near the top of the team’s priorities, as should finding competition to push the underwhelming right-side duo of Trey Hopkins and Jake Fisher. On defense, the Bengals may need to add some talent at linebacker due to Vontaze Burfict‘s four-game suspension and the lack of depth at the position.

Lastly, they should target a pass-catching tight end despite re-signing the oft-injured Tyler Eifert to a one-year deal.

Potential draft targets: The Bengals sit at No. 21 overall after trading down as part of the move for Glenn, but they should still have their pick of interior offensive linemen. While Quenton Nelson will be long gone, guard Isaiah Wynn should be available and could be a Day 1 starter thanks to his quickness and above-average technique.

James Daniels could slot in at center immediately too but might be a slight reach in the first round. At tight end, Dallas Goedert is an intriguing Day 2 prospect. He could provide Cincinnati with a weapon who can make plays both on quick routes and downfield, though he needs to work on his route-running skills.

Cleveland Browns

Biggest need: QB
Secondary needs: LT, CB, S

Any team that goes 1-31 over two seasons should consider upgrading any and all positions on its roster. However, there’s little doubt the revolving door under center has been one of the major reasons for the Browns‘ continued failures.

Tyrod Taylor is a capable starter and Cleveland fans should enjoy finally having a safe pair of hands at quarterback, but he isn’t the kind of talent who can change a franchise’s fortunes. The Browns simply have to find the guy.

Elsewhere, the retirement of Joe Thomas means the Browns will enter the draft with a glaring need at left tackle for the first time in 11 seasons. On the defensive side of the ball, Cleveland desperately needs both quality and quantity added to its woefully inexperienced secondary.

Potential draft targets: Sam Darnold and Josh Allen appear to be the final two contenders to be taken No. 1 overall. While Allen’s arm talent is otherworldly, Darnold possesses the higher ceiling and has shown far superior football IQ and accuracy. He should be the first player to have his name called.

No offensive tackles are worth the No. 4 overall pick, so the Browns could target the likes of Connor Williams and Kolton Miller at the start of Day 2. Minkah Fitzpatrick, however, is more than worthy of the honor and could be the culture-changer the Browns need after being molded into the perfect Nick Saban disciple at Alabama.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Biggest need: ILB
Secondary needs: WR, S, RB, TE

The loss of Ryan Shazier to a serious spinal injury, which the 25-year-old tackling machine is thankfully recovering from, exposed the Steelers’ lack of athleticism at inside linebacker – especially in the playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in which the defense surrendered 45 points.

Finding a replacement for Shazier should be Pittsburgh’s main goal if it wants to compete for a Super Bowl in 2018. The Steelers prefer sideline-to-sideline-type linebackers, and so they will likely have to use one of their first few picks to snag a top prospect.

Pittsburgh’s roster is one of the most well-rounded in the league, so selecting some developmental skill-position players as insurance would be smart. A deep running-back class provides the Steelers a chance to grab a potential starter in the later rounds if the contract situation with Le’Veon Bell continues to deteriorate.

Potential draft targets: Leighton Vander Esch is the kind of fluid, rangy inside linebacker the Steelers will likely fall in love with. His hype, however, is increasing so fast that Pittsburgh may have to trade up in the first round to secure his services. But, as maybe the best coverage prospect at his position, it could be worth the resources.

In terms of offensive weapons who could potentially take the Ben Roethlisberger-led unit over the top, running backs Mark Walton and John Kelly could excel if given a redshirt year behind Bell, while receiver Equanimeous St. Brown could provide the Steelers with the size-speed target they thought they were getting with Martavis Bryant.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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