AFC North: Ravens look to the air

AFC North: Ravens look to the air
by Cris Carter, Yahoo Sports
April 15, 2004

Cris Carter
Yahoo Sports
Cris Carter's draft analysis:
Overview | AFC: East - North - South - West | NFC: East - North - South - West

Craig James' draft analysis:
Overview - QBs - WRs - More offense - Defense

Editor's note: As part of Yahoo! Sports' coverage of the NFL draft, Cris Carter will break down the needs of each NFL team leading up to draft day.

Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore rode a 10-6 record to the top of the AFC North last year, but the Ravens don't have a first-round pick in 2004. Luckily for the Ravens, they may not need one to land a great wide receiver in this draft. They're hoping one is left when they pick at No. 51.

One way or another, Baltimore needs someone who can take the pressure off Jamal Lewis and its running game. Brian Billick still is looking for that big-play guy who can provide first downs.

After receiver, the Ravens will look to get some backups on the offensive line to protect one of last year's first-round picks, Kyle Boller.

Cincinnati Bengals
After trading with the Denver Broncos for Deltha O'Neal, the Bengals moved from No. 17 to No. 24 in the first round.

Cincinnati's holes are right up the middle, especially on defense. That's why the Bengals tried to land Warren Sapp. They love Tommie Harris, the defensive tackle from Oklahoma, but they almost certainly would have to trade up to get him.

It might be worth it – Cincinnati gave up almost 140 yards per game on the ground last season.

After the Bengals address the defensive line (especially at tackle), they need offensive linemen to protect former top overall pick Carson Palmer, who will get the starting nod at quarterback this season.

Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers weren't satisfied with their running back situation, but they re-signed Jerome Bettis and added Duce Staley through free agency. I wouldn't expect that to be an area they address early, especially not at No. 11.

The Steelers re-signed quarterback Tommy Maddox, but they are only paying him like a backup. With three marquee quarterbacks in this draft, the Steelers might be hoping one slides to No. 11 – or they might try to trade up.

Offensive tackle and cornerback also are weak spots for Pittsburgh. The pass defense has been especially suspect over the past couple of seasons. And they again could use a tight end.

Cleveland Browns
Just about every team needs more people to protect the quarterback, but Cleveland is at the top of the heap. The Browns need offensive linemen, and picking at No. 7, a great many will be available.

But with the No. 7 pick, the Browns might be better served to grab a cornerback. The word out of Cleveland is that the Browns have their eyes on DeAngelo Hall out of Virginia Tech. The Browns like his speed and tenacity and ability to play man to man.

And then there are the players with whom coach Butch Davis is very familiar from his University of Miami connection. Sean Taylor could be a top-five pick, but what if he slides to No. 7? And what about Kellen Winslow Jr.?

If Detroit and Washington haven't made sure both of those guys are gone, Davis might pick a Hurricane.

Cris Carter is Yahoo! Sports' NFL analyst. Send Cris a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.

Updated on Friday, Apr 16, 2004 2:54 pm, EDT

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