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State of AFC North: Ravens need a playmaker; Browns will get their way; remembering Rooney

The Ravens can wait for a playmaker to fall to them in the draft. Martavis Bryant is on the path to reinstatement. Why would the Browns argue over who to take with the first overall pick when they can have both players they want?

NFL: Preseason-Atlanta Falcons at Cleveland Browns Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 NFL Draft is just about a week away and it’s time to check in on the Cincinnati Bengals’ rivals around the AFC North. The Cleveland Brown have been rumored to be torn on who to select with the first overall pick in the draft, but there is a simple solution they are missing. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ troubled receiver is taking the steps toward reinstatement. The Ravens need upgrades at two positions at which the draft is loaded.

Baltimore Ravens

Ravens likely to land receiver or pass rusher in Round 1

The NFL draft is approaching and fans are trying to nail down prospects who are most likely to end up on their teams. This is harder to do for teams outside of the top 15 picks because at that point the usual chaos of the draft will have set in, and there is almost no way of knowing who will be there. Figuring out who the Ravens will choose isn’t easy, but knowing which position they’ll go with is pretty easy.

The Ravens are dealing with a receiving group that lost Steve Smith Sr. to retirement, and the remaining receiving corp isn’t exactly jumping out as overly talented. The Ravens are also dealing with an aging pass rush that is reliant on Terrell Suggs who is on the back end of his career and without recently cut Elvis Dumervil. One of these positions will be addressed in the first round for Baltimore.

The biggest reason for this is the availability of players at both positions. The front end of this draft is loaded with pass rushers, and there are three receivers who can bring an instant impact to an offense. The Ravens are in a sweet spot where they can sit back and wait for the teams ahead of them hash out who will make it to pick number 16. Of course the Ravens could hop up a few picks if they’d like to grab a specific player, but the Ravens could sit back and still end up with a play maker.

Jerraud Powers retires

Jerraud Powers was an underrated signing for the Ravens last season. He signed a one-year deal with Baltimore to prove he could play the nickel corner position and improve his value the following offseason. It didn’t end up working that way.

Powers started six games for the Ravens and played in 13 total games. He had two interceptions, five passes defended, and 33 tackles during his time with Baltimore. He played eight seasons in the NFL, and as it was starting to become time to choose between competing for playing time or retiring from the league. He has decided on the latter.

“With the 2017 season getting started and teams are preparing to be the best they can be, I think it's time for me to walk away from the game. The last 8 years have been a joy and wonderful ride. Even though I can still compete and play at a high level, mentally, I'm ready for the next chapter of my life. ... Thanks to the fans, you guys make the game GREAT. Thanks to my family for being supportive and loving me through it all. Looking forward to setting new goals with my wife and 2 sons and proving the naysayers wrong again,” Powers wrote on his Instagram.

The Ravens should be fine at cornerback without him. They are clearly going to rely heavily on their safety combo of Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson to put the secondary into the elite category. A lot of their cornerback success will depend on how the newly acquired Brandon Carr plays.

Powers may not have been in the Ravens’ plan, but it is hard to imagine he couldn’t have stuck to a roster next year. Still when a guy knows, he knows. Here is hoping retirement treats Powers well.

Cleveland Browns

Cleveland hasn’t decided on the first overall pick

There have been some rumors recently about the inner workings of the Browns’ front office. The source of these rumors doesn’t seem to be from inside the Browns’ front office but instead outside teams making guesses and observations. In any case, let’s treat them as fact for a minute to indulge the chaos. Tis’ the draft season after all.

A squabble is the best way to describe what is happening over the first pick. The fancy new analytic guys want Myles Garrett because he is obviously the best player in this draft. Hue Jackson reportedly wants his franchise quarterback. I guess Jackson isn’t appreciative of the shiny Brock Osweiler he just got. Still, it is understandable that the guy who will ultimately face most of the blame for losing and is super competitive wants his guy to build around on offense. That guy appears to be Mitch Trubisky. He isn’t really an Andrew Luck type quarterback and will need time to develop. That’s even more the case as he only has one real year of production at the college level.

It is too hard to pass up a talent like Garrett though. He is just head and shoulders the best prospect. If there was a can’t miss player in the draft, this is the guy. Plus, he plays the second most important position in football. The most important person is the quarterback, and the second most important is the guy who disrupts that most important player.

Still these are rumors, potentially smokescreens and the team shouldn’t worry about choosing between the two because the...

Browns can get both players

The Browns have the most draft capital of any team in the NFL, and they have a direct path to the second spot. The Browns have an extra pick in each of the first three rounds this year and an extra second round pick next year courtesy of the Texans. The Browns could use those picks to jump up back into the top 10 if they like Trubisky as much as people think. The 49ers have also stated that they are very open to moving back and acquiring more picks.

Of course the Browns could sit back at at 12 and use that pick as well as all their other picks to create a rock solid foundation for their turn around. It is hard to say what the Browns will actually end up doing, but they are in the driver’s seat of this draft.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Bryant takes a step towards reinstatement

Martavis Bryant had a productive year in 2015, and was a big reason for the Steelers’ success on offense, but he was suspended for all of 2016 due to breaking the league’s substance abuse policy, yet again.

There is no doubt Bryant is a talented player, and the Steelers having a competent No. 2 receiver just makes the rest of their offense run that much smoother. Still, many question whether Bryant will end up being that guy. Many draft experts have mocked receivers to Pittsburgh early in the draft, and wide receiver could be a position the Steelers actually go after early. If they do, that would say a lot about where the Steelers’ level of trust is with Bryant.

Bryant presented his plan to ensure he doesn’t break the policy again, and the league will eventually get back to him regarding his reinstatement.

Remembering Rooney

As a Bengals’ fan I have hated the Steelers as long as I can remember. However, the one thing I have always respected is the way the team is run. The players may have rubbed me the wrong way, but the way the Steelers always seem to be in contention is frustrating, yet respectable. Dan Rooney was a big reason for that.

At the age of 84, Rooney passed away, leaving Pittsburgh and the rest of the NFL in mourning. One of his most impressive accomplishments from a football standpoint was the fact the Steelers have only had three head coaches during his time in Pittsburgh. Cincinnati fans who have dealt with the seemingly never-ending Marvin Lewis era may not understand how incredible that is, but looking at the way the Browns and 49ers have gone through head coaches makes it that much more impressive.

The Rooney name will remain in the NFL as his son, Art Rooney II, had already been conducting day-to-day operations. It will also stay in the NFL when referring to the minority interview rule known as the Rooney Rule. The rule makes it so before a team can hire a head coach or senior football operations employee, they must interview at least one minority candidate.

Marvin Lewis, Mike Brown and Katie Blackburn went to Pittsburgh to attend Rooney’s funeral on Tuesday.

“I respected him. I liked him. I always thought of him as a friend down deep,” Brown said via after hearing the news that Rooney had passed away. “We understood the trials and tribulations that go along with participation in the league. We probably had a competitive instinct to beat the other guy on the field. But off the field it’s not that way at all.”

The Rooney name will always carry immense respect. RIP, Dan Rooney.