NFL draft preview: AFC and NFC North team needs

NFL draft preview: AFC and NFC North team needs
Central Florida wide receiver Breshad Perriman makes his way to the interview room at the NFL combine on Feb. 19 in Indianapolis. (David J. Phillip / Associated Press)

The NFL draft will be held Thursday, Friday and Saturday in Chicago. Times NFL writer Sam Farmer examines team needs by division. Today, the North divisions:

AFC North

With Torrey Smith now in San Francisco, the Baltimore Ravens are looking for a speedy receiver who can stretch the field. They have the 26th pick and should be able to find a burner there, perhaps Central Florida’s Breshad Perriman, who ran a 4.22 in the 40-yard dash for scouts. The Ravens are looking for help at cornerback, too, so they might go that direction in the opening round. The team could pursue a running back on Day 2.

Pittsburgh hasn’t used a first-round pick on a cornerback since taking Chad Scott in 1997, but the Steelers could be headed that direction with the 22nd selection in this draft. With the retirement of Troy Polamalu, the team also will be on the hunt for a potential next-generation star at safety. The Steelers need a pass rushing linebacker, as nearly 37-year-old James Harrison might be the best they’ve got.

The left tackle for Cincinnati, Andrew Whitworth, will turn 34 this season, so the Bengals might put a succession plan in place with the 21st pick in this draft. But the Bengals need to fortify their defense, as well, and they are in good position to go in several directions on that side of the ball. Geno Atkins hasn’t looked like a superstar of late, so the Bengals need to look at this crop of defensive tackles.

With two first-round picks, the Cleveland Browns can continue to reshape their roster. Hard to believe, but the Browns could once again be on the lookout for a quarterback, although they might not be willing to give up what it takes to get Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton will be tempting if he’s there at No. 12, and this franchise needs receivers, too, with Josh Gordon suspended again.

NFC North

Everybody needs at least some fine-tuning, and that includes the Green Bay Packers, who have the 30th pick. With A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones gone, the Packers need help at inside linebacker and should be able to get a good one. The Packers are eyeing this class of tight ends, too, and might take one on Day 2. Cornerback is also an area of need, although Green Bay will miss the first wave of those in its current spot.

There’s a defensive makeover happening in Detroit, with the Lions losing defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley in free agency and adding the graying but talented Haloti Ngata. The Lions will be looking for more help along the defensive front. The Lions also have needs along the offensive line, so they might go that direction with the 23rd pick.

The Minnesota Vikings took a step forward with first-year Coach Mike Zimmer last season, but there’s work to be done. The team has a glaring need at left guard — ideally one who might eventually be able to move to tackle. The Vikings need more pass rushers, too, in a pass-happy division that includes quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler.

The draft has moved to Chicago, and the Bears are looking to make a splash. With Brandon Marshall gone, new General Manager Ryan Pace might look to grab a receiver at No. 7 and could be in position for either West Virginia’s Kevin White or Alabama’s Amari Cooper. The Bears’ defense was 30th in yards allowed in 2014, so the franchise surely will be tempted to address that with its first-round pick.