Every Wednesday for the next seven weeks, GmenHq will be featuring one of the divisions in each conference and what each team might be looking at for draft/free agency help. This week we will look at the AFC Central.
Last week we looked at the AFC East
Baltimore Raves: My pre-draft ranking of the Baltimore Ravens franchise is NEUTRAL. As sad as it is, the Ravens have become very old on defense. Although they were only a Field Goal away from the Super Bowl, they are going to be a year older and a step slower. The defense is the strength of this team, but they need to target a way to get younger. The Ravens will have the 29th overall pick. Rumors coming out of the greater Baltimore area indicate that the Ravens are targeted a WR and/or LB. However, they will need to deep into free agency to help fill some of their voids. They do have the cap room to make these moves. One also has to wonder if the Ravens will look to switch kickers simply to appease some of the veterans on the team. Given their age and lack of offensive explosiveness, I believe the Raven are stuck in mud and thus a pre-draft ranking of Neutral. They are one or two good signings from being positive and they are one torn ACL for Ray Rice/Ed Reed from a ranking of negative. The draft is often not essential for teams coming off such a successful season; however, for the Ravens their season begins on draft night.
Pittsburgh Steelers: My pre-draft ranking of the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise is a Downward Trend. Some people might be
surprised by what I think of the Steelers, but they have tons of issues. They just released Ward, Harrison is always wanting to retire, and Troy Polamalu is not getting any younger. Big Ben has yet to talk to the new offensive coordinator and the Steelers may not be able to retain their best wide-out (Wallace). As I type this the Steelers are also over the cap thus having no room to make any positive changes to their team. Mock drafts have the Steelers looking for DL help or going an offensive lineman. Because of the new draft rules, those two positions should not cost the Steelers too much money. They should have enough to sign their draft picks but not much more than that. Mark this date down (March 7, 2012), the Steelers could be staring a sub .500 season straight in the face.
Cleveland Browns: My pre-draft ranking of the Cleveland Browns is NEUTRAL. The Browns are very hard to predict right now. Rumors are widespread that the Browns are going hard after the Rams 2nd overall pick. If they secure this pick, it is assumed that they would draft RG III. IF, and I mean If, this happens the Browns would take a huge leap forward. Pairing Brown and Hillis together would give Browns fans something to cheer about. Even if they do not make the trade, they still have the fourth and 22nd picks in the first round of the draft. Beyond that, the Browns also have much flexibility with their cap space and could be looking to make a huge splash in free agency too. If they draft RG III look for them to go hard after a WR and then safety help in the later rounds. With the right moves the Browns could go 11-5 or with the wrong moves could go 5-11 this upcoming season. They are a very interesting team to say the least!
Cincinnati Bengals: My pre-draft ranking of the Cincinnati Bengals is an Upward Trend. The Bengals have a young dependable QB and a very young and talented WR corps. How can you go wrong with that? They also have a good amount of draft room and are drafting in the number 21 position. They have flexibility with their pick. They can go for LB help or continue to build their offensive line. A recent mock draft had them going RB, LB, CB in the first three rounds of the draft. They have solid young talent all around the roster and may be looking one or two moderately priced veterans to help secure the foundation of the team. No matter how you look at it this team is on the rise.
Pre-Draft Prediction for AFC Central final year standings: 1) Bengals 2.)Ravens 3.) Browns 4.) Steelers
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