The NFL draft is a time of renewed spirit and high interest for NFL fans of every team around the league. In the months leading up to the big day, many writers will speculate on who their favorite teams will target and what kind of impact they can expect to see out of their newly acquired players.
In this article, I will break down the top two potential draft picks for every team in the AFC north and what each team can expect to see out of those players.
First off, the Cincinnati Bengals...
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The Bengals will be the first AFC North team to be on the clock in 2011 (subject to change with trades) and will not disappoint their fans with Da'Quan Bowers.
Bowers is a physical freak of nature and can provide a key piece to a defense that struggled in 2010.
Bowers would fit well into the Bengals' defensive scheme, as he would more than likely take the place of third year veteran, Antwan Odom, who has been sidelined most of the last two seasons with injuries.
Many mock draft experts look for Cincinnati to take a wide receiver with this pick in the first round but if A.J. Green is off the board, you can expect the Bengals to look defense or trade down.
The Cleveland Browns need to keep drafting well in order to keep their hopes at building a strong franchise alive. With a new head coach in place, it is important for the Browns to acquire players and I think that they will have that chance in the first round.
The trade is as follows: Cleveland Browns trade first round pick (sixth overall) to Houston Texans for first round (11th overall) and third round (73rd overall) selections.
Houston's defense is now under new management with Wade Phillips at the helm and the team will be making a shift to the 3-4. I think Houston will take the chance to move up and get a play-maker with:
Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina
The Cleveland Browns will finally take a player with the 11th overall pick and it will be Julio Jones from Alabama.
Jones is an upgrade from seemingly every other wide receiver currently on the Browns roster and would be a welcome addition to Pat Shurmur's rebuilding offense.
The Browns have made it clear that they intend on using Colt McCoy as their quarterback for at least the upcoming season so adding weapons for him to throw to makes a great deal of sense.
In 2010, Jones had a total of 78 catches for 1,133 yards and seven touchdowns
The Baltimore Ravens have shown in their recent draft trends that they like to draft defense and look for offense in free agency. I feel like this trend will continue when they take defensive end, Justin Houston, 28th overall.
Houston is a versatile defender with the option to play at either outside linebacker or defensive end.
Although he has built himself up into top 25 consideration, Houston will more than likely fall right into the Ravens laps as teams will look more towards pure defensive ends in the first round.
Houston compiled 11 sacks in 2010 which makes him a consistent pass rushing threat and would be a perfect addition to a strong defensive line.
The Pittsburgh Steelers will look to solidify the offensive line as they take Pouncey late in the first round.
Pouncey will join his brother, Maurkice, on an offensive line that was plagued by injury in 2010 and will more than likely be adding more than one fresh face.
The Steelers are heavy into protecting Ben Roethlisberger and focus much of their offense based off a strong rushing attack. Those reasons both play into why Pittsburgh will look to the offensive line with their first selection.
This pick will obviously rely heavily on the off-season intentions of current Bengals halfback, Cedric Benson.
If Benson is not under contract come draft day look for Cincinnati to add a running back during the second day.
Mikel Leshoure is essentially the same type of back as Benson and blends a good balance of power and speed.
In 2010, Leshoure ran for nearly 1,700 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Even though the Cleveland Browns will more than likely be switching to the 4-3 defense in 2011, there is a significant weak spot at the DE position that can be filled with Cameron Heyward.
Heyward would fit well into a number of different spots along the Browns defensive line and is already an in-state favorite after playing at Ohio State.
Heyward would more than likely serve as the second defensive tackle in the Browns 4-3 system or as the new left defensive end, filling in for Brian Schaffering.
In 2010, Heyward recorded 84 tackles and 10 sacks.
The Baltimore Ravens' receivers struggled heavily in their playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers and who will return for the 2011 season is very uncertain.
Derrick Mason is now heading into the ladder part of his career and T.J. Houshmandzadeh complained often about not getting enough attention in Baltimore's high powered offense.
Titus Young could be the breath of fresh air that the Ravens receiving corps needs at the end of the second round.
Young is a strong receiver with a great deep threat and should provide a solid No. 2 option behind Anquan Boldin.
The Pittsburgh Steelers' secondary has been hit by the injury bug in the second half of the season and it is becoming clear that depth is becoming an issue.
The Steelers will more than likely look to upgrade from current corners, William Gay and Bryant McFadden, by drafting Ras-I Dowling in the second round.
Scouts have praised Dowling for his superb speed and field presence which fits the mold perfectly of what coach Mike Tomlin wants.
The AFC North is beginning to gain the reputation of being the best division in professional football and every player drafted will have their hands full with strong divisional opponents.
Who do you think may get drafted to the AFC North teams in 2011?