Friday, 15 April 2016

AFC North pre-Draft update

Article by Gordon Dedman

I don’t pay much attention to the build up to the Draft as there are too many imponderables to provide any realism to project which player will go to what team except for the first few, but even then there can be twists with trades.

The NFL Draft is big business, even big show business.

There will be blanket coverage for the league in the news and social media at the end of this month. “A three-day outdoor football festival for families and fans of all ages,” is how the NFL describes the extravaganza that will take over Chicago.

The teams have been evaluating players throughout the college season climaxing with the NFL Scouting Combine at the beginning of the year. Take a look at each team’s front office listing the personnel in their scouting unit. There’s a lot of depth and investment in the department, because it can provide some outstanding rewards.

But, all the research and analysis in the world isn’t guaranteed to pick a winner and there are many occasions when teams overlook future stars. Tom Brady wasn’t selected until the sixth round of the 2000 draft, but six other quarterbacks were picked before he was taken by New England.

For nearly forty years, the Steelers were perennial losers, but when they hired Chuck Noll in 1969 he built a Super Bowl winning team through the draft. His first ever pick Joe Greene turned into a legend and the Hall of Fame is filled with many more of Noll’s draft choices.

I was fortunate once to visit the Steelers “war room.” It was during the season and on one wall were several columns of cards with players’ names arranged in slots so they could be moved up or down as the individual’s stock rose or dipped. The pro season was still in flight, but the Steelers were already evaluating players they might draft in six months’ time.

Steelers General Manager Kevin has stated the Steelers will focus this year on the defensive side of the ball. Steeler fans have been complaining about the team’s secondary for years so they will be hoping Pittsburgh uses its first round pick on a cornerback for the first time since 1997 when they selected Chad Scott.

The Steelers won’t be the only team in the division adding depth to their defense. The Bengals eleventh ranked defense took a hit when their Pro Bowler safety Reggie Nelson agreed a two year deal with Oakland.

Cincinnati did pick up linebacker Karlos Dansby from Cleveland, but they need to do more on that side of the ball. The Bengals lost two receivers to free agency so replacements should also figure in their draft.

After their 5-11 season, the Ravens find themselves in the unusual position of having a high pick that should provide them with a great opportunity to select a solid player to strengthen their defense.

Now the Browns have RG3 onboard and with experts projecting them to select a quarterback with their overall second pick, it appears that Josh McCown could find himself redundant in Cleveland.

Maybe new head coach Hue Jackson thinks differently about using that top pick on a quarterback. He enthused about Josh McCown, “You don’t play in this league for 15 years having not been very good at what you do. He provides us with a really good quarterback, obviously a veteran presence and I am just excited to work with him.”

With the loss of Travis Benjamin to free agency, whoever leads the Browns at quarterback may not have anyone to throw to unless they address the deficit in the draft.

One player who may not find work is Browns receiver Josh Gordon, who was forced to sit out last season for drugs violation. It appears he has failed another drugs test so has to wait until August for the NFL’s decision on whether he can play. Stories are now circulating that Gordon is living with Johnny Manziel. You just couldn’t make it up, but it is the Browns we are talking about so we don’t have to.

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