AFC North Round 1 Draft Preview: Bengals, Browns, Ravens, Steelers
The Bengals lost Stacey Andrews to the Eagles and as much as his impact was important last season they still finished 29th in the league in rushing.
Although RB or WR could also be an option here, I feel it would be wise for the Bengals to begin the process of restoring their offensive line in the first round with the selection of AP first team All-American, Michael Oher with the sixth pick.
I believe with the recent news that Michael Crabtree should be ready to go from his foot injury for training camp in July, the St. Louis Rams at pick No. 2 look like a buyer with the recent release of Tory Holt.
Of Oher, it has been said that his techniques needed at his position have impressed scouts greatly and his maturity level could allow him to follow in the steps of other rookie offensive tackle's such as Jake Long who started right away and showed success in the NFL.
I'm sure Ocho Cinco and the "who dey" gang, would be happy not to finish at the bottom in the league in passing next season due to a poor offensive line once again.
The Cleveland Browns finished 30th overall last year in defense and only produced 17 sacks all season. With the fifth pick overall, I believe they'll take Brian Orakpo from Texas University.
In my mind, he draws a comparison to Dwight Freeney as far as the size and athleticism are concerned. Sure you could argue over their college stats but what's important is the disruptive nature they both played with.
Brian finished his college career with four NCAA awards as well as Big 12 defensive player of the year, 2008 First-team All-American, and to boot a 2005 Sporting News Freshman of the Year honor.
Talk about finding enough shelf room. His "workout warrior" label is unique among defensive draft prospects this year due to his top bench press numbers. On a side note, Orakpo stands for warrior in his native Nigerian.
It has been reported by former NFL general manager Charlie Casserly, from sources that his coverage skills will need some more work in a 3-4 system, but right away, as a 4-3 defensive end, just let him stick is hand in the ground and watch him fly!
Barring the possibility of a trade, the Baltimore Ravens seem like they will be picking former Maryland wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey with the 26th pick.
Within his three years at Maryland, Darrius proved to be a deep-threat playmaker, with three long receptions for touchdowns and two outstanding rushing touchdowns.
He has been regarded as one of the best jump-ball catching receivers in the nation.
There could be an argument made about his upside compared to former Kansas State speedy receiver Yamon Figurs, who also was a converted track star but didn't exactly pan out for the Ravens just yet.
Despite focusing on track his red-shirted freshman season, I'll show you why Hey-Bey has plenty of upside. Just recently he worked out with the Ravens, catching passes from Joe Flacco.
Flacco was impressed with his size and ability to catch the ball. Player personal director Eric DeCosta has praised him by saying, "He caught the ball well, he ran crisp routes. I thought he was really coachable, and he responded really well to our guys.”
Personally I respect his ability to allow his play to standout while his Terps struggled during his season's with Maryland with mediocre quarterback play and a disappointing offense, especially last season.
Teams will look at the Crabtree's in the draft before Hey-Bey, but if he falls to the Ravens here and teams up with Joe, look out for potentially the next great tandem.
Although the Steelers finished with the fourth rushing attack in the league their QB Ben Roethlisberger cannot afford to be sacked over 40 times a year any more, it has to stop some where.
You can say the offensive line has had its share of problems last season. Why not shore up your center or guard position with a guy that has been said can play any of the two position's successfully in the NFL?
At Cal U last season, Alex Mack cleared holes for running backs in nine 100 yard rushing games on a team that averaged 165.7 rushing yards a game. The offensive line also only allowed 11 sacks that year.
His ability to use intelligence combined with athleticism speaks to his average 3.6 GPA in college. On the field he has been noted to be stout not only on the line but at the second level as well.
Being skilled and lineman savvy enough to successfully defend linebackers and defensive backs has drawn comparisons to former college standout and LSU Athletic Hall of Fame inductee Kevin Mawae.
Concern's noted about Mack is his tendency to be over powered by larger defensive tackles and getting high in his stance at times versus playing with a wide base.
Regardless of these faults, and due to his very sound background, proper coaching and conditioning should be able to develop Alex into a franchise offensive lineman.
In 2004 as a freshman he begin his journey practicing against Seattle defensive tackle, Brandon Mebane which showed his willingness to learn from a pro.
Now after deciding to gain another year of experience and factoring in the stock of talented tackles over centers and guards available, entering the 2009 draft should pay big first-round dividends for Alex Mack as the 32nd overall pick.