AFC North draft capsules
28. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (13-4)
LAST SEASON: Steelers had little trouble rolling to third AFC North title in four years but flamed out in playoffs when Jaguars stunned them for second time in four months, 45-42 in divisional round. Defense led NFL and set franchise record with 57 sacks, but also had trouble getting stops late in season following Pro Bowl linebacker Ryan Shazier’s spinal injury. Pittsburgh allowed 350 yards and 28 points after Shazier went down. Shazier has already been ruled out for 2018, leaving Steelers thin at inside linebacker. Secondary is being overhauled after veterans Mike Mitchell, William Gay and Robert Golden were cut. Offense finished third in yards and eighth in points but it wasn’t enough for coordinator Todd Haley to keep job. Team wasted little time promoting quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner to take over.
THEY NEED: LB, CB, RB, TE.
THEY DON’T NEED: LT, C, DE.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State; LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama; CB Josh Jackson, Iowa; RB Derrius Guice, LSU.
OUTLOOK: Steelers have leaned on draft heavily to replenish linebacker group, using first-round pick for one in four of last five years. With Shazier out and 2015 first-round pick Bud Dupree’s long-term status unknown, it’s likely Pittsburgh goes to well again at No. 28 overall. Cornerback would also make sense early, but Steelers could also tip hand about plans for RB Le’Veon Bell and QB Ben Roethlisberger in second and third rounds. Bell has yet to sign franchise tender, will head for 2019 free agency with no new deal. Roethlisberger said after loss to Jacksonville he believes he can play three more years. If Steelers don’t believe him, they could take shot at landing successor early. They haven’t taken QB before fourth round since grabbing Roethlisberger 11th overall in 2004.
21. CINCINNATI BENGALS (7-9)
LAST SEASON: After five straight playoff appearances — and NFL-record five straight first-round losses — Bengals have had back-to-back losing seasons, which would mean change at top for most teams. Instead, coach Marvin Lewis — 0-7 in playoffs — got two-year contract extension through 2019. There were moves with staff, notable for reluctant-to-change organization. Bengals fired offensive coordinator Ken Zampese after 0-2 start and replaced long-time offensive line coach Paul Alexander after season. Bill Lazor was retained as offensive coordinator for 2018 and given latitude to overhaul offense that finished last in league. Line was biggest problem, and Bengals took first step toward addressing it by acquiring LT Cordy Glenn in trade with Buffalo, also swapping 12th and 21st picks in first round. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther left to join Jon Gruden with Raiders.
THEY NEED: C, OT, LB, DE, S.
THEY DON’T NEED: P, K, LS.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: C James Daniels, Iowa; T Connor Williams, Texas; T Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame; LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama.
OUTLOOK: Trade for Glenn was merely first step in addressing team’s biggest problem. C Russell Bodine signed two-year deal with Buffalo, leaving hole in middle of line. RT Jake Fisher had procedure to fix irregular heartbeat last season but expects to return. Until Bengals get line fixed, there’s not much hope for significant improvement. QB Andy Dalton and WR A.J. Green return for eighth season together, coming off what was least-productive one. Bengals expected top two picks last season, WR John Ross and RB Joe Mixon, to bring big-play abilities as rookies, but neither did much. Ross was hurt most of season and played in three games without getting catch; he carried one time and fumbled. Mixon became starter after Jeremy Hill got hurt and finished with 636 yards and 3.5-yard average as running game was one of worst in franchise history.
16. BALTIMORE RAVENS (9-7)
LAST SEASON: Needing victory over Cincinnati in season finale to end two-year playoff drought, Ravens yielded last-minute, 44-yard touchdown and lost 31-27 to finish. Though defense was sound for much of year, late-game collapses against Pittsburgh and Bengals in December knocked Baltimore from postseason for unprecedented third straight year under coach John Harbaugh. Emergence of running back Alex Collins (973 yards rushing) was not enough to offset inconsistent passing game that ranked 29th in NFL. General manager Ozzie Newsome sought to provide QB Joe Flacco better targets by signing free agent receivers John Brown and Michael Crabtree in March. Newsome also signed Robert Griffin III as Flacco’s backup, just in case 33-year-old starter gets hurt or falters.
THEY NEED: WR, TE, DE, RT, CB.
THEY DON’T NEED: RB, RG, S, ILB, LS, P, PK.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama; T Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame; DE Marcus Davenport, UTSA; TE Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State; T Kolton Miller, UCLA.
OUTLOOK: Newsome’s final foray as leader in draft room comes when Ravens are desperate to add talent after enduring lengthy playoff drought. Obvious need is wide receiver, but Baltimore also could use pass rusher who can offer support to 35-year-old Terrell Suggs and perhaps serve as successor. By releasing RT Austin Howard, Ravens are thin on offensive line and are looking for bookend to LT Ronnie Stanley, sixth overall pick in 2016 draft. Pass-catching tight end is also priority; Benjamin Watson was not retained despite leading team with 61 catches in 2017. Also possible Newsome will snag QB in later rounds who can learn as third-stringer and perhaps serve as starter during next decade.
1, 4. CLEVLEAND BROWNS (0-16)
LAST SEASON: Total flop. Coming off 1-15 season in coach Hue Jackson’s first year, Cleveland joined 2008 Detroit Lions as only teams in league history to lose all 16 games. Bad decision to start rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer was compounded by team failing to keep competent veteran QB to groom him. Kizer led league with 22 interceptions with several coming in game-deciding moments. Browns averaged league-low 14.6 points per game — 14 less than New England — and offense lacked impact playmakers until WR Josh Gordon returned from suspension for final give games. Rookie DE Myles Garrett, top overall pick in 2017, had solid season but was slowed by ankle injury suffered just before opener. Defense showed some improvement, but couldn’t get big stops when needed and finished ranked last inside red zone.
THEY NEED: QB, CB, WR, LT.
THEY DON’T NEED: RB, DL, LB.
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: QB Sam Darnold, Southern California; QB Josh Allen, Wyoming; QB Josh Rosen, UCLA; QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma; RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State.
OUTLOOK: Jackson has been given third season — and maybe less — to win. New general manager John Dorsey was aggressive during offseason, landing QB Tyrod Taylor and WR Jarvis Landry in trades and rebuilding defensive backfield. Still major needs, none more than franchise quarterback. Taylor will likely start in 2018, but could be pushed by top overall pick, expected to be either Darnold or Allen. Darnold seems safer choice and Dorsey has discounted his turnover troubles last season with Trojans. After passing on chance to take Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson past two seasons, Browns can’t afford to risk skipping top QB. Cleveland has dilemma at No. 4 as Barkley may be irresistible and tough to ignore twice. Another possibility is North Carolina State DE Bradley Chubb, who could play opposite Garrett and give Cleveland fearsome pass rush.
— The Associated Press