Michael Amato is going to study team-by-team each squad's NEEDS over the next few weeks. Enjoy the ongoing series of articles as we explore the upcoming NFL draft.
Another draft is upon us and another year of the Browns picking in the top 10. It seems like Cleveland has been rebuilding for almost a decade, but with a handful of heartbreaking losses last season, the Browns seem close to turning a corner.
With the sixth overall pick Cleveland is in the perfect position to select cornerback Dee Milliner from Alabama. While helping the Crimson Tide to a national title in 2012, Milliner was tied for third in the nation with 18 passes defensed. He also had 22 pass break-ups and 54 tackles, with four of those coming for a loss.
Since the Browns ranked 25th against the pass last year by giving up over 245 yards a game, pairing Milliner across from Joe Haden should help them improve significantly in that area. And in a division where you have to deal with Torrey Smith, A.J. Green, and Antonio Brown out wide, slowing those guys down is paramount.
The Browns could also consider a kicker at some point as well, since Phil Dawson who had been there for a hundred years has moved on to San Francisco.
Much like the Browns, the Steelers could look at a defensive back with the 17th overall pick. Pittsburgh had another decent year defensively in the way of limiting yardage, but they lacked a lot of impact plays. They had just 10 interceptions on the year which was tied for fourth worst in the league, so if someone like Xavier Rhodes slides down a few spots to 17, they should grab him.
Pittsburgh is also getting older when it comes to their pass rushers and they must do a better job of pressuring the quarterback. With James Harrison being let go, if the Steelers want they could look at a defensive end or outside linebacker who can get to the passer in the first round. If they’re lucky and Jarvis Jones is still available, he would be a solid fit into their defensive system.
Looking at the other side of the ball, the Steelers would be wise to address a number of positions at some point during the draft. With Mike Wallace’s departure, someone like Tavon Austin from West Virginia could be a nice replacement if available at 17.
Pittsburgh also used a multitude of running backs last year and finished just 26th in rushing. They are high on Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman who they still have on the roster, but picking up someone in the later rounds would be a smart move for insurance. With that being said, if the Steelers want their running game to rebound they also need to bolster the guard spots since Willie Colon is now a New York Jet and it doesn’t look like they will be re-signing the versatile Doug Legursky.
Andy Dalton has made great strides in his first two seasons in the NFL, but his supporting cast is going to need to improve on protecting him. Dalton was sacked 46 times last year and only Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers went down more often.
Picking 21st overall the Bengals could take a strong look at offensive tackle Menelik Watson from Florida State. Many have debated if Watson is more of a second round selection, but at 6-foot-5 and 310 lbs he has tremendous upside and is a gifted athlete at the position. He would be a nice fit for Cincinnati and would help Dalton feel more comfortable in the pocket.
If the Bengals are not sold on Watson, then they could take a receiver late in the first round to alleviate some pressure off of A.J. Green. His 97 catches last year led the Bengals by a mile and only Jermaine Gresham from the tight end spot even came close with 64. Keenan Allen from California would work well in the Cincinnati offense and should provide them with some more balance.
The Bengals are well set up to continue to build on two straight playoff appearances as they own 10 picks in this draft, including two second rounders, and two sixth rounders.
After winning the Super Bowl the Ravens lost quite a few players in free agency that have been cornerstones of the franchise for years. The loss of Ed Reed to the Texans and Ray Lewis to retirement is going to sting, but with a whopping 12 picks in this draft, Baltimore should be able to at least reload somewhat.
As far as the linebackers go, with all the fanfare that surrounded the loss of Lewis, losing Dannell Ellerbe to the Dolphins could be just as devastating. He was a vital part of their defense last season and one way to replace him may be with Kevin Minter from LSU. In 2012 Minter was First Team All-SEC and a finalist for the Butkus Award by posting 111 tackles. He also added 13.5 tackles for loss and three sacks.
The Ravens brought in Chris Canty and Elvis Dumervil to help out the defensive line, so they should turn their attention to the secondary sooner rather than later in this year’s draft. Safety Matt Elam from Florida could pair well with Michael Huff to attempt to replace Reed and Bernard Pollard.
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