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How the AFC North could draft in the 1st round

As Steelers fans our primary goal is of course to see who Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert will take in the 2012 NFL Draft which starts tomorrow (Thursday, April 26th) and runs through Saturday April 28th. We posted up several mock drafts and many articles over the last few weeks about who could go where and when to the Steelers.Don’t forget to stay tuned to SteelerAddicts.com as we’ll have a draft tracker, writeups and great conversation on all the draft picks our beloved team takes this weekend. We’ll be active in the social media side as well like usual,  @SteelerAddicts & SA Facebook.

However, in addition to the Steelers picks, we also will keep a watchful eye on who the rest of the AFC North is taking, and if the Ravens might try and leap frog the Steelers in round one for example. Who the Bengals, Browns, and hated Ravens take is also noteworthy though as we’ll begin to see who the Steelers will be dealing with next season and beyond.

Here’s one final look at how the AFC North could pan out on Thursday evening. You can also see the previous picks in this mock if you wish, via the links below. Perhaps you agree, or disagree but you’ll be entertained more than likely at least…

As promised, here is the third and final installment of the Boris Diaw Time mock draft. Again, this mock draft is a little different from the typical ones on ESPN. We aren’t picking who will get drafted in a certain spot; we’re picking who we would draft if we were in charge of that team. Prince and I alternate picks and there were plenty of interesting ones in the top ten. Don’t forget, we have no idea what we’re talking about so don’t get angry if you hate our picks.

If you missed the first ten picks, you can find them here:
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#21Cincinnati Bengals – CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama
Prince: As I discussed in my previous selection for the Bengals, I am taking a CB for a team that really needs to fill the hole left after the departure of Johnathan Joseph. They went out and signed Terrence Newman this offseason, but I’m sure you know, Landrum, that he is not going to solve their problem. I really like that Kirkpatrick is 6’2” which should really help him match up with the taller WR’s in the league. He also has plenty of experience in bump and run coverage, and is big enough to knock a receiver off his route at the line.Kirkpatrick does have an off-field issue involving marijuana, which could make him fall a little in the draft, but I would still take him over Stephon Gilmore, who is the next highest rated CB.
Jon: Hey, you know who would have done a great job of replacing Johnathan Joseph? Johnathan Joseph! Because it’s always smart to let your young, franchise CB flee in free agency even though you have $30mil in cap room just lying around. Look, I figured this was going to be the pick, and I’m sure Cincinnati is probably heading in this direction on draft day. I just don’t think Kirkpatrick can play in the NFL, period. His calling card is being physical, which unfortunately has been outlawed. So where does that leave him? Just look at the knocks on him! Not great top end speed, doesn’t change directions well, isn’t strong in man coverage…this is a first round pick? I just don’t get it. Then again, I don’t know that I have a strong alternative for you, either. Stephen Hill would be interesting.
Prince: You know I like Stephen Hill. I considered him, but that forced me to choose between a CB who has below-average speed, and a WR who may have trouble catching the ball and has questionable route running skills. I know the rules have changed, but I still like CB’s who get up on the line and knock WR’s. CB’s with his height are not easily found, and I think the Bengals should take a chance on him.
#22Cleveland Browns – OL Cordy Glenn, Georgia
Jon: I nearly pulled the trigger on Coby Fleener here, but I can’t pass up a golden opportunity to get a potentially dominant lineman. Even if Glenn ends up at guard, he’ll fill a huge hole for the Browns, and should definitely prove worthy of the #22 pick. But, if he can trim down a bit and perfect his footwork, I see no reason why he can’t up at right tackle. Given their protection issues last season, this would be huge for Cleveland.
Prince: Yeah, the Browns had issues on the whole right side of their line last year, so Glenn would be a great fit for them at either guard or tackle. I almost thought you might go with your Madden strategy that you brought up a few picks ago and take another WR for them. Do you think there is any chance Holmgren would take both Blackmon and Stephen Hill in the 1st round?
Jon: No, less than a 0% chance that happens. Also, I don’t think Hill is even remotely on their radar. Think about it; the Browns run a West Coast system that depends on precise route running and strong after the catch running. Stephen Hill is an insanely raw talent that pretty much goes deep. On every play. Just not a great fit for Shurmur’s system. Also, Colt McCoy is the QB, and he can’t throw the ball more than eight yards downfield. So there’s that.

 

#24Pittsburgh Steelers – LB Dont’a Hightower, Alabama
Jon: Well, it appears as if I’m the one turning into Mel Kiper here, since me taking Hightower now means I’ve agreed with him on four of my last six picks. I feel like we’ve either mailed this mock draft in, or we’ve lost all ability to think independently. Or maybe this draft just sucks and we can’t figure out which crappy player to take for which crappy team. Anyways, I’ve been kicking around Hightower ever since the Kuechly pick, and I really do think he’s going to end up being the best ILB in this draft. He’s just a superior physical specimen. I may be going out on a limb with this, but I think there is some definite Ray Lewis potential here. Of course, there’s also some serious “oh crap, I blew my knee out AGAIN” potential here too. Probably why he’s down in the 20’s! Still, Pittsburgh absolutely must replace James Farrior, and Hightower is a perfect fit for their scheme. Maybe the best player-scheme fit in the entire draft.
Prince: True, Hightower to the Steelers would be a great fit. Teams concerned about a knee surgery in 2009 may not view it as a big deal though when other guys in the draft are labeled as “may not be good at football.” Plus, the Steelers can turn any LB into an All-Pro. I do think you need to clarify your Ray Lewis comment though. Are you saying that Hightower is going to be really good, or should I be afraid of getting stabbed?
Jon: I don’t know about the stabbing thing. As far as I know, Hightower hasn’t murdered anyone yet, but you know how things get mysteriously covered up when you’re a big time college athlete. I guess as long as he didn’t get paid for stabbing anyone, Alabama will be able to keep their championship. As for the football part of the comparison, I am saying that Hightower’s upside is pretty crazy. It’s not just his incredible size and athleticism either; it’s the ferocious way he plays the game. I love those types of players, the type that wants to rip your head off on every single play. Plus, scouts are always raving about his instincts and discipline. So yeah, I think there’s a chance we look back at this draft and wonder why in the heck we let a Hall of Fame player drop to the 20’s.

 

#29Baltimore Ravens – DE/LB Andre Branch, Clemson
Prince: It looks like there are going to be a lot of these hybrid guys available in the second half of the first round, so I think it will be interesting to see which order they are drafted in. Branch is another player who is pretty raw, but should have no problem playing either DE or LB. Also, I have to think that Baltimore would have no problem figuring out how to use him effectively. Branch has great speed, and should be able to get around tackles who aren’t as athletic.He had a good season last year, earning all-ACC honors and registering 10.5 sacks as a DE. He did sign with Clemson as an OLB though, and has some experience at the position, so it shouldn’t be tough for him to make the transition.
Jon: It seems like most people have Baltimore going either offensive line or safety, which doesn’t make a ton of sense to me. Why would they “play it safe” on a non-premium position that they don’t really need when they could take a shot on a potential impact guy? Like you said, Branch is super-raw, but the upside of an athletic pass rusher clearly outweighs the eventual value of a “center of the future.” That having been said, I would have gone in a different direction here. I would have gone with Coby Fleener. No matter what rhetoric comes out of Joe Flacco’s mouth, he’s always going to be “Checkdown Joe,” and Baltimore’s best chance at maximizing their offensive potential is to get a stud like Fleener. The potential impact on Flacco’s career and the team’s Super Bowl chances are huge. I mean, just look at what New England did with their two TE’s! That’s not, in any way, saying that Flacco will suddenly turn into Brady, but you have to think that years of ignoring his skill set and gunning for downfield threats have stunted his growth. To me, this is maybe the best and most obvious fit of the entire draft, and it would be a travesty if they passed on it.
Prince: I don’t see Flacco being amazing, no matter who they get on offense. Because of that, I think their defense has to be as good as possible. I saw Fleener on the show Sport Science and he is an athletic freak, so I think he should be a good pro; I just don’t trust Flacco. Baltimore lost Jarrett Johnson in free agency, so I figured I would get someone to replace him.
Also, I agree with you that Baltimore shouldn’t go after a center in the first round. They have bigger needs than getting someone to replace Birk, (even though Birk is still going to play this season) and I don’t think any team should be taking a center this high in this draft.

Be sure to check out other great articles at It’s Boris Diaw Time!.

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