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NFL draft preview: AFC and NFC North

A look at what each team in the divisions will be looking to accomplish.

April 23, 2013|By Sam Farmer
  • The Detroit Lions would be happy to see Alabama defensive back Dee Milliner still on the board at No. 5.
The Detroit Lions would be happy to see Alabama defensive back Dee Milliner… (Dave Martin / Associated…)

The draft will be held Thursday, Friday and Saturday in New York. Times NFL writer Sam Farmer examines team needs by division. Today, the North divisions:

AFC North

In a division that features quarterbacks Joe Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger and Andy Dalton, having just one reliable corner is scary. That's the predicament of the Cleveland Browns, who have the sixth pick. The Browns will also take a long look at the quarterback class, even though they used their first pick on Brandon Weeden a year ago. They'll likely listen to offers to trade down, possibly with San Diego.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are painfully thin at outside linebackers, the pass-rushing lifeblood of their 3-4 defense. Fortunately for them, there are sufficient fits in this draft class. The Steelers, too, will scan the horizon for a safety who might someday fill the shoes of Troy Polamalu. This draft isn't rich in running backs, but the Steelers might be able to find one in the middle rounds who can grind out yards.

Seeing as they have yet to re-sign right tackle Andre Smith, the Cincinnati Bengals will have to give strong consideration to using their first pick on a big man who can anchor that side of the line. Alabama's D.J. Fluker still could be on the board. The Bengals could use a running back, too, an upgrade to BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Adding another receiver might be in the cards, and there are some to be had in the middle rounds.

With receiver Anquan Boldin, linebacker Ray Lewis, safety Ed Reed, and center Matt Birk gone, the Baltimore Ravens will look a lot different next season, and their needs are evident. Atop the wish list is a reliable inside linebacker, and that might be the direction they go with their first selection, the 32nd pick. Joe Flacco would love another sure-handed target. It's a tall order to even approach replacing those stellar players.

NFC North

It's an (almost) instant replay for the Detroit Lions, who like last year are looking for players to bolster their offensive line and secondary. With the fifth pick, they've got a decent chance to land either a top-shelf tackle such as Central Michigan's Eric Fisher, or the draft's best corner, Alabama's Dee Milliner. A pass rusher would be a welcome addition to a team that lost ends Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch.

How strange it will be to see the Chicago Bears without Brian Urlacher. The team needs to rebuild its linebacking corps, and middle linebacker is a particular position of need. Will the Bears grab Notre Dame's Manti Te'o? With Jay Cutler in the final year of his contract, Chicago will take a look at the quarterbacks to see if there might be an eventual fit in this class.

Two picks in the first round is great news for the Minnesota Vikings, who had seven more victories last season than in 2011. The team needs to add at least one cornerback (no more Antoine Winfield); a middle linebacker, possibly Te'o or LSU's Kevin Minter; and a receiver, although they might not be as desperate for an elite pass catcher as it might seem for a team that just lost Percy Harvin.

There are a lot of capable safeties at the top of this draft, and the Green Bay Packers stand a good chance of getting one. With Charles Woodson gone, the team needs someone to pair with Morgan Burnett. Yet again, the Packers could use a versatile running back. Green Bay needs to address its long-term future at left tackle, and build depth at defensive tackle.

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