He'd Be a Good Oakland Raider!: AFC North

Rob CalongeAnalyst IApril 5, 2008

This is part six of an eight part series detailing players that have jumped out at me and made me say, "Man!!  That guy would be a good Raider!"

The AFC North is becoming one of the stronger divisions in the league.  It's a division that consists of teams that were once part of the old AFC Central division.  Tradition is a major factor amongst these teams along with some odd spins.

Pittsburgh is the one team not related to the rest in some weird way.  The Cleveland Browns were once the dominant team of the NFL, coached by none other than Paul Brown.  Paul Brown left the Cleveland Browns after being fired by majority owner Art Modell and later went to the AFL as principal owner of the Cincinnati Bengals, natural geographical rivals to the Browns and the SteelersBaltimore in the meantime had the Colts, until that franchise up and moved in the middle of the night to Indianapolis.

Almost 30 years after Paul Brown became owner of the Bengals, Art Modell decided to move the beloved Browns to Baltimore.  Since Cleveland won the right to keep the name, 'Browns,' Modell was forced to start a new tradition and renamed the team to the Ravens.  A couple of years later, the NFL expanded and granted the Cleveland fans their beloved Browns.  Did you get all that?  All three of the teams hate the Steelers, along with hating each other.  Good stuff.

Before I start, here's what I've done so far and where I'll be going in the next few days:

  • Mar. 29 - Raiders-Arizona_Cardinals-San_Francisco_49ers-He_d_be_a_good_Oakland_Raider_-_NFC_West-300308">NFC West
  • Mar. 31 - Falcons-New_Orleans_Saints-He_d_Be_a_Good_Oakland_Raider_NFC_South_Targets-310308#comments">NFC South
  • Apr. 1 - Bears-Green_Bay_Packers-He_d_Be_a_Good_Oakland_Raider_-_NFC_North-010408">NFC North
  • Apr. 2 - Redskins-He_d_Be_a_Good_Oakland_Raider_NFC_EAST">NFC East
  • Apr. 3 - Bills-Miami_Dolphins-New_England_Patriots-He_d_Be_a_Good_Oakland_Raider_AFC_EAST-030408">AFC East
  • Apr. 4 - AFC North
  • Apr. 5 - AFC South
  • Apr. 7 - AFC West

I'm going to try and not make big reaches, so I'll find at least one player per team, but no promises past that.  If you have any suggestions, post them.

Pittsburgh Steelers

First off, even though the Steelers almost always have a good defense, until some of those players actually leave the team for equal or better success, I've got to chalk it up to the system. 

WR - Hines Ward:  In my opinion, he's the toughest receiver in the league.  Like many receivers the Steelers draft, he's a former high school and college quarterback converted to receiver.  If you had to pick one receiver on 4th and long with less than two minutes to go, you'd want this guy.  He's clutch, and he's not a prima-donna.  He'll block, go over the middle to get pounded, and never has alligator arms.

RB - Willie Parker:  You always have to give undrafted free agents a ton of credit.  It's one thing to make a roster when a team has nothing invested in you, but to become a starter, then a Pro Bowler, that's something special.  That's probably what puts him over the top to get on this list.  He's good, but he sometimes has trouble running between the tackles.  You have to love his speed and vision on most plays though, so he's on the list.

S - Troy Polamalu:  Seriously, is there really anyone out there that wouldn't be thrilled to have this guy on their team?  Anyone?

NT - Casey Hampton:  Above I stated that the system is a big reason for the Steelers successful defense, and that's a credit to the whole defensive team and the coaching.  The Steelers' scheme just wouldn't work without a great Nose Tackle.  Casey Hampton is just that.  For the Steelers' defense to work, the NT has to be a space eater, sometimes taking on as many as three guys.  The Steelers have the best defense in the league, so what's that tell you?

Cleveland Browns

The Browns are an up and coming team, but they'll have to prove themselves in 2008, or they'll be considered a flash-in-the-pan team.  Even though they're good, many of the players, in my opinion, are still not proven.  Let's put it this way, I love Braylon Edwards and Joe Thomas, but they're not on the list...yet.  I'm impressed with Derek Anderson, but like the team, let's see if he can do it again with Brady Quinn looking over his shoulder.

WR - Joe Jurevicius:  You might be asking, "Really?"  I don't know exactly what's happened to this guy's career or why he's not more productive, because every time I watch a game with him in it, he's catching a critical pass or making a great play.  I've liked this guy since he was a Giant, and when he Torched the Raiders in the Super Bowl, my thoughts about him were validated.

TE - Kellen Winslow:  I'm sold.  I never wanted to be sold, but I am.  A Charger legacy who would probably never want to play for the Raiders, K2 always came off as a punk who was all talk.  Then he almost lost his leg in a motorcycle accident, and something changed.  Maybe he saw his once bright career getting dimmer.  He came back and has been as good as advertised.  He's a hard worker, like teammate  Edwards, and he's good.  Now the fact that he's edgy is a plus.

OC - Hank Fraley:  Another undrafted free agent who's carved out a very nice career.  He may have put in his best season last year leading the Cleveland line.  He may not be the most talented center, but he's a tough and durable center that's good.  Anderson got the credit for the offense, but without a good center, there wouldn't be any credit to give.

OG - Eric Steinbach:  He's a road-grader, and a big reason why Cleveland can run the ball.  He's another tough guy with good technique and plays to the whistle.  If a guy can pound the rock, he's going to gain yards running behind this guy.

Cincinnati Bengals

No, Chris Perry is not on the list haters.  In fact, only three are on the list.  This team has much to work out.  If I can't come up with at least four guys, that's pretty bad.  Their defense is bad, the offensive line isn't very good, and their QB hasn't been the same since breaking his leg against the Steelers a couple of years ago.

WR's - T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Johnson:  I think "whosyourmama" is the better receiver, but he does play Robin to Johnson's Batman.  I love how tough both of these guys are and how they are a terror for opposing corner's to cover.  Johnson has put himself in the borderline area by being so ignorant as to alienate his team and fans when he knows he's at least another year away from having a chance of being traded.

RB - Rudi Johnson:  I love how this guy runs.  He's a little cannonball who runs into the line and around it, but he always seems to find the smallest hole in which to run through and he's tough.  He may be slowing down some, but I'd take him.

Baltimore Ravens

Here's another team that is getting old, but there are still players on this team I would think would be good in Silver and Black.  Since this team is known for its defense, I'll start there.

LB - Ray Lewis:  I think he'd be better served in the 4-3 scheme, but maybe he's lost a step.  I don't know, but he still seems pretty good to me.  I'm not a big fan of his and I think he talks way too much about some lame stuff on gameday, but whatever works, right?

S - Ed Reed:  I'm a huge fan of this guys.  He'll lay you out and on the next play, pick the ball off.  He's so talented and menacing in the secondary.  He's very much someone you could put in the same class of a Tatum or Lott.

CB - Chris McAlister:  The perfect compliment to Ed Reed, he's another tough guy that can play with finesse.  I love his game even though I may not be THE best corner in the game, he's tough and he's cocky, and he's good.  You want that in a corner.

NT - Kelly Gregg:  If you want to talk Nose Tackles, you have to at least mention Gregg.  First, he's a nose tackle who gets double teamed a bunch.  Last year, he had 80 tackles!  There are linebackers and safetys that don't have that many tackles!  He had 3 sacks also, and he's just a huge disruptor.  With the Raiders run defense, I covet this guy.

TE - Todd Heap:  What's cool about this pick, the Raiders already have the carbon copy of him in Zach Miller.  I love the way that Heap gets in there and levels defensive players with his blocks, but he also makes some acrobatic catches.  There aren't too many tight ends that could make the case that they're better.

Did I miss anyone?  Did I reach too much?  Agree or disagree? 

Any feedback you have is greatly appreciated.  I want to thank the guys that have given their feedback so far, including 'sure Bert' who gave a very thoughtful analysis of me.  If you think I got it wrong, let the world know by posting it.

Remember the only criteria to make my list, is that the player has had to have made an impression on me so significant that I would say to myself, "He'd be a good Raider," or "I wish he was a Raider." 

Who's done that for you?


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