NFL draft: NFC and AFC North draft needs

Johnny Manziel
Will the Cleveland Browns select Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel with the fourth-overall pick in the NFL draft?
(David J. Phillip / Associated Press)

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

AFC North

This should sound familiar: The Cleveland Browns are looking for a quarterback. They are in prime position to get one with either of their first-round picks, No. 4 or 26. They would love a wide receiver to they could pair with Josh Gordon, too, and if Clemson’s Sammy Watkins doesn’t go in the top three picks it will be difficult for Cleveland to pass on him. This franchise needs playmakers.

Even though they signed Lance Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey this spring, the Pittsburgh Steelers are still looking for a young receiver who can pick up the slack left by the departed Emmanuel Sanders. With Ike Taylor in the last year of his contract, the Steelers are on the hunt for a cornerback, and they’re in a good spot to get one of the top-shelf ones. in this draft. Having lost Ziggy Hood and Al Woods in free agency, the Steelers want to fortify their defensive front.


There are two outstanding safeties in this draft — HaSean Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor — and the Baltimore Ravens are in position to get one, of them, something they’ve looked for since Ed Reed left. Baltimore has a left tackle in Eugene Monroe, but a right tackle would be nice. Ray Rice is an outstanding back, but he’s has had some serious off-the-field issues. The Ravens might look to add depth at running back.

During the past last five years, the Cincinnati Bengals have done a good job of drafting the best player available, rather than being driven entirely by need. With that in mind, they don’t have a pressing need for a receiver, but they might take one early to augment their arsenal. With Leon Hall recovering from his second torn Achilles’ tendon in three years, the Bengals will be in the market for a cornerback. A defensive end is on the wish list, too, with Michael Johnson gone.

NFC North

The Minnesota Vikings haven’t found their answer at quarterback, but they’re reticent to roll the dice with the eighth pick and wind up with another Christian Ponder. They Vikings need a guard, but it’s too early to take one at eight. If UCLA’s Xavier Su’a-Filo slips into the second round, he’s unlikely to slide past Minnesota. New Coach Mike Zimmer will be looking to build on that defense, so he will be scanning the horizon for a linebacker as a foundation for the rebuild.


The entire secondary is a problem for the Detroit Lions, and it’s likely that they’ll take a cornerback with the 10th pick — Justin Gilbert, Kyle Fuller or Darqueze Dennard would be a fit. The team also might take a safety, even though the Lions have serviceable starters at those spots. Even with the most dangerous receiver in the game, Calvin Johnson, and having added Golden Tate, the Lions might look to fortify their stable of pass catchers.

Hard to believe, but the defense-minded Chicago Bears were the NFL’s worst at stopping the run last season. With General Manager Phil Emery believing the under tackle is the centerpiece of a defense, Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald would seemingly be an ideal first-round pick. Chicago could use a defensive back, too, one who could soak up all the knowledge he can from 33-year-old star Charles Tillman. The Bears also are looking for a linebacker.

Like the Bears, the Green Bay Packers have struggled to stop the run. A big, disruptive defensive tackle would be helpful. They need help at safety, and there are a couple of potentially elite ones in this draft. Green Bay might be looking for a center too, having lost last year’s starter, Evan Dietrich-Smith, to Tampa Bay in free agency.

Next: West divisions

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