2012 NFL Mock Draft: Analyzing Matt Miller's Latest Picks for the AFC North

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2012 NFL Mock Draft: Analyzing Matt Miller's Latest Picks for the AFC North
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Miami RB Lamar Miller may be worthy of one of the Cincinnati Bengals' first round picks

Bleacher Report's own NFL draft expert Matt Miller released his latest first-round mock draft over the weekend, in reaction to the St. Louis Rams successfully trading their No. 2 overall pick to the Washington Redskins.

The move has a ripple effect throughout the entire first round, as evidenced by the changes he made in response. Here, I examine who Miller has projected to go to each AFC North team and whether or not he made the right calls.

 

Cleveland Browns (Round 1: No. 4, No. 22)

Miller's projections: CB Morris Claiborne, LSU (No. 4); WR Kendall Wright, Baylor (No. 22)

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Yes, you, Morris Claiborne, the Cleveland Browns want you

Best-available player it is for the Cleveland Browns at No. 4 overall, hence Miller's prediction the team will snag cornerback Morris Claiborne.

The Browns do need to add wide receivers and could use another running back, but No. 4 is too high to draft Justin Blackmon and Claiborne is just too good to pass up in favor of Trent Richardson.

I still think that Richardson is in play for the Browns with this pick; doubly so if they lose Peyton Hillis to free agency. Cleveland already has a strong secondary, and while any improvement (especially the kind of improvement Claiborne represents) is always a good thing, its offensive deficiencies are far more pressing.

Addressing this issue by selecting Baylor receiver Kendall Wright would be the smartest use of the Browns' No. 22 pick. However, don't be surprised if the Browns use this pick on Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden if they think for some reason that they can't get him in the second round.

 

Cincinnati Bengals (Round 1: No. 17, No. 21)

Miller's projections: OG Cordy Glenn, Georgia (No. 17); RB Lamar Miller, Miami (FL) (No. 21)

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
With RG3 spoken for, maybe now the media will focus on who will win the Cordy Glenn sweepstakes; Miller says the Bengals will hit the jackpot

As I noted last week, Georgia offensive guard Cordy Glenn's name has been attached to all four teams in the AFC North as they all could use a boost to their respective offensive lines. The Bengals, of any of those teams, have the best chance of winning out simply because of their draft positioning in the first round.

Protecting quarterback Andy Dalton is a high priority in 2012 as the Bengals try to become one of the league's top passing offenses. Glenn is great in pass protection, but his versatility is the main reason so many teams would be a good match for his skills.

Still, I could also see Cincinnati picking up a receiver with this pick, or perhaps a cornerback to boost their secondary. The latter option is one that Miller raises when discussing what the Bengals may do with their No. 21 pick, should they not go with a running back.

If they do go running back, Miami's Lamar Miller would be a great choice. He's fast and strong and has great hands; a good receiving running back is something the Bengals certainly need, and if they don't find it in free agency, they would most certainly get it from Miller.

Another running back I like for the Bengals with this pick is Washington's Chris Polk.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers (Round 1: No. 24)

Miller's projection: OT Mike Adams, Ohio State

Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
A young, healthy talented offensive lineman? The Steelers will think they died and went to heaven if they land OT Mike Adams.

Miller says the Pittsburgh Steelers will select Ohio State offensive tackle Mike Adams with their first round pick, citing the team being impressed with his pro day workout last week.

Without question, the offensive line has been the Steelers' biggest Achilles' heel in recent years, and Adams would not only be a major upgrade but a guaranteed rookie starter at the team's embattled right tackle position. 

If the Steelers are committed to offensive line in the first round, they're certainly smart to go with a player like Adams who clearly caught their attention last week. I do like Cordy Glenn for the Steelers as well, but with the 24th overall pick, they'll likely miss out on him.

Defense is an option here as well; if he's still on the board, Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower would be a perfect fit.

 

Baltimore Ravens (Round 1: No. 29)

Miller's projection: ILB Luke Kuechly, Boston College

Elsa/Getty Images
LB Luke Kuechly is tailor-made for the Baltimore Ravens defense

The Ravens have a lot of little needs but dwindling options for first-round talent, as they pick 29th overall. Linebacker is one area they could target, as is offensive line. Miller has the Ravens going with the former with this pick, selecting Boston College inside linebacker Luke Kuechly.

Miller goes on to say that he doesn't personally have Kuechly rated as a first-rounder, but is making an exception here for the Ravens, where he's both worth the pick and is an ideal fit.

He cites the fact that other Ravens linebackers are constantly being double-teamed, so Kuechly's pursuit tackling would be a good complement to their overall defensive strategy. I like Miller's projection here, though it is extremely unorthodox.

Sometimes smart draft strategy isn't about picking up the best available player when all your targets are spoken for—it can also be about picking up the best-fitting player over other, higher-ranked guys. That's what picking Kuechly in the first round is for the Ravens, and I like the move a lot.

 

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