Writers sockonfl and Consigliere will provide a division-by-division look at NFL Teams leading up to the 2010 NFL Draft. The articles will focus on teams’ strengths, weaknesses and draft needs. Other articles in this series include: NFC North, AFC East, AFC South and NFC West — Ed.
Here is a look at how each team in the AFC North currently shapes up prior to the NFL Draft.
Ben Roethlisberger: Big Ben needs to overcome his off the field issues that are currently pending, however I do foresee him back at the helm in Pittsburgh in 2010. The Steelers have a fall back in Dennis Dixon if something goes terribly awry in the Big Ben situation. Either way I don’t foresee the QB position being a need for the Steelers this draft.
Rashard Mendenhall: Mendenhall came in and played extremely well for the Steelers in his first full season. The Steelers brass has promised to get back to old Steeler football and run the ball more in 2010. That can only mean big things for Mendenhall.
Mewelde Moore: Moore is a quality guy on third down situations, but Mendenhall has also proven to be a good receiver out of the backfield and a solid blocker. Moore’s days in Pittsburgh could be numbered if the Steelers find a quality RB to support Mendenhall in the upcoming draft.
Hines Ward: Still a PPR stud at this point in his career. I am sure Hines has a few more quality seasons left in the tank.
Santonio Holmes: The former Super Bowl MVP really saw an uptick in all his stats in 2009. I see no reason for this trend not to continue as the Steelers transition from a Hines Ward/Santonio Holmes tandem to a Santonio Holmes/Mike Wallace tandem.
Heath Miller: Miller turned in a superb performance in 2009 especially in PPR leagues. He should continue to be another of Ben’s favorite targets in 2010.
Pittsburgh in the offensive statistical positions may only be looking to draft a mid-round RB to help the load from Rashard Mendenhall. Tennessee’s Montario Hardesty and Auburn’s Ben Tate are possibilities here.
Joe Flacco: A good young developing QB in this league. He seemed to take major strides early in the 2009 season, but regressed later on due to some minor nagging injuries and the team’s insistence on running the ball. I see a more balanced attack due to the acquisition of Anquan Boldin in 2010.
Ray Rice: Rice was the surprise of the 2009 season. He is a stellar option in PPR formats. I see no reason he cannot duplicate his efforts in 2010.
Willis McGahee: The goalline TD vulture should continue in his role as the short yardage and change of pace back for Rice.
Anquan Boldin: One of the biggest moves made by any team this offseason. Boldin automatically energizes the passing game and gives Flacco an excellent No. 1 option to throw to.
Derrick Mason: Mason is a solid receiver to help take some double coverage away from Boldin. Mason can still beat you.
Todd Heap: Heap played an almost injury-free 2009. While serviceable, Heap is aging. An upgrade at the position would not hurt the team.
The only fantasy-relevant position I foresee the Ravens drafting in 2010 is TE. It probably wouldn’t be hit until later in the draft, so Florida’s Aaron Hernandez and Pittsburgh’s Dorin Dickerson are possible selections.
Carson Palmer: The former No. 1 overall pick turned in only a so-so season in 2009. He seemed to fade dramatically down the stretch. Perhaps he should have that shoulder surgery that he keeps putting off. It may make him better in the long run.
Cedric Benson: Another surprise fantasy player from the 2009 season. He also faded toward the end of the season. Seems like a recurring theme for the Bengals. Maybe they need a new strength and conditioning coach. Benson is a solid RB3 if he can hold up.
Bernard Scott: This flashy prospect now sits firmly in the No. 2 slot with Larry Johnson vacated to the Redskins. Scott is a guy to acquire in dynasty leagues. Benson had a ton of carries in college and is starting to age (28) now. Scott could be in a starting gig before you know it.
Chad Ochocinco: 85 is still a decent receiving option, but he is no longer the elite receiver he once was. It may be time to transition to Andre Caldwell or perhaps someone from the 2010 draft.
Antonio Bryant: Bryant comes in for the departed Lavernues Coles. Problem is I don’t see him being any more of a receiving threat than Coles was last year. I wouldn’t expect big things from Bryant in 2010.
Chase Coffman: Not sure what status Coffman has with the organization in 2010. He was injured in 2009 so we didn’t even see a glimpse of him. Rumor mill has the Bengals looking at a certain TE in round 1 of this year’s draft. As far as I am concerned nothing is concrete at TE until after the draft.
I think the Bengals pursue some sort of receiving option in the first round of the draft. Possibilities in order would be Oklahoma State’s Dez Bryant, Georgia Tech’s Demaryius Thomas, or Oklahoma’s Jermaine Gresham.
Jake Delhomme/Seneca Wallace: Delhomme is done as an NFL QB. With players currently on the roster, Delhomme would probably see a few starts in the beginning of the season. Wallace would then replace him due to a better understanding of the West Coast Offense.
Jerome Harrison: Harrison was a superstar down the stretch of last season. I am not sure he can handle the full load for an entire season. They may use a combo of James Davis and possibly another back they might add late in the draft.
James Davis: Last year’s training camp darling didn’t get to play in 2009 due to injury and may have lost his starting gig because of it. Davis may still be sprinkled in and serves as the primary backup for Harrison.
Mohammed Massaquoi: Massaquoi made strides in his rookie season despite having inconsistent play at QB. He could develop into a solid receiving threat if the right QB comes into the Browns system.
Brian Robiskie: Josh Cribbs could get a shot at WR2, but I think Holmgren would rather him focus mostly on special teams and gadget plays. Robiskie could step in and become a factor if given the opportunity
Ben Watson: Newly acquired Ben Watson solidifies the TE position that lacked since the departure of Winslow II. He is a decent red zone option in the offense.
Holmgren will definitely address the QB position. It appears he has his sights on Texas’s Colt McCoy in Round 2. McCoy would be successful in a West Coast Offense in the NFL. The team may also look to add a beefy RB late in the draft. Auburn’s Ben Tate, Mississippi State’s Anthony Dixon and Lousiana State’s Charles Scott are all possible here.