Draft Needs: AFC North
At PFF we’re not big on telling you things we don’t know about first hand, so saying who a team should draft is not something you’ll see here. However, giving you our view on areas of need, is another matter. With free agency essentially in the books, we thought this might be a good opportunity to give you a pre-draft look at the areas they should look to address either via the draft or otherwise .
You know how much we like colour-coding everything and this set of articles (one for each division) is no exception. Before you dig in we’d highly recommend you check out the legend – these are not player grades as in our projected line-ups series, we are grading need. Obviously, to some degree, they are related but not always. Let’s be clear, the fact that in the AFC East Review we have the Patriots QB situation as a slightly higher need than that of the Jets does not mean we are saying Geno Smith is a better QB than Tom Brady; just that Smith has shown enough to say he deserves a decent shot and with Michael Vick backing him up there is no immediate need to draft another QB while in New England it may be time for them to consider a successor to the great man particularly given Ryan Mallett is a free agent next year and shown very little in recent preseasons.
In some of the grades we are also considering the depth behind the player listed so, for example, with Buffalo’s slot corner position the fact they have Nickell Robey as well as Corey Graham ensures this is a straight dark green. However, where this is the case, I’ll mention it in the text below relating to each team.
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The Ravens’ Super Bowl hangover was unexpected. They made some good moves in 2013 free agency which they hoped would make the defense even more potent (and to some degree this happened) and only the loss of Anquan Boldin felt like a real negative. However, their offensive line completely imploded, Joe Flacco returned to his pre-playoff form and the secondary never really came together in coverage. Some of this is reflected in the needs; a glaring hole at right tackle and free safety, but the final one is more subtle. Arthur Jones is off to Indianapolis and despite still having talent on the line, it’s of the aging variety. To be fair, the same can be said of the linebackers and an injection of youth across the front-seven would be welcome.
With 80% of the starting nickel secondary over 30 it’s time to look to the draft, particularly as Dre Kirkpatrick will need to make a rare turnaround not to be labelled a bust. Our “yellow” notation for Margus Hunt doesn’t indicate the Bengals are giving up on him at all, but does say they would probably like to see him as part of a rotation that doesn’t currently exist. Finally the team likes Rey Maualuga at MLB, but when they watch Vincent Rey play the position, they have to see the difference. We’ve put linebacker as the third need because moving Rey inside and drafting a strong-side player makes sense.
Going beyond the obvious it wouldn’t shock me at all to see them draft a WR high. Take out Josh Gordon for the year (which could happen with a single misdemeanour) and that receiving corps looks paper thin. Also note two of the “grades” are really more a function of depth than the player noted. Firstly, Ahtyba Rubin is a good run defender but very costly for such a player and with the rest of the DL similar players and Mike Pettine liking pressure from his front, it looks probable they’ll draft here. Secondly, despite his contract Paul Kruger is not necessarily “safe”, but a combination of him and Barkevious Mingo probably are.
William Gay had a decent season but it was an oddity as was the resigning of Ike Taylor who gave up more yards than any other corner last year. This is a team in desperate need of talent at the position. The defensive line is also looking very thin. Cam Thomas should help a little, but after the starters the depth is non-existent. While we have our doubts about the offensive tackles, they are in a better position than for some years so maybe wide receiver looks a bit safer on paper than it probably is. All that really depends on what they think they have in Markus Wheaton and if they have faith that Lance Moore is a good fit.
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