A division consistently considered one of the toughest in the NFL; the AFC North currently possesses a unique blend of teams in terms of draft needs. Both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh are coming off excellent regular seasons which ended in tragic playoff disappointment, while the Ravens and Browns will be picking up near the top of the draft after agonizing 2015 campaigns. All teams involved desperately need this draft to improve upon or begin building toward the ultimate prize of a Super Bowl championship.

For the Ravens, head coach John Harbaugh will likely be out of excuses this season, after drawing the injury card in 2015 in hopes of removing himself from the blame for the debacle. The Bengals were one and done in the playoffs once again, putting coach Marvin Lewis’ rear end in hot water for seemingly the umpteenth time. Newly anointed head coach Hue Jackson has a ton to prove in Cleveland, as he and his “Moneyball” team of sabermetric front office assistants will embark on yet another angle of bringing home a title to “The Land” before LeBron does. And finally the Steelers… They enter the 2016 draft in complete and utter “win now” mode, as the biological clock on their Big Ben is beginning to tick away.

Baltimore Ravens

2015 Record: 5-11

2016 Draft Picks: 6. 36, 70, 104, 130, 132, 134, 182, 209

Consistently this offseason I have had Ronnie Stanley ­­– offensive tackle out of Notre Dame ­– mocked to the Ravens at No. 6 overall. However, after long deliberation I have come to grips with the fact that the pick just doesn’t fit. First of all, it appears as though the Ravens' need for an offensive tackle – while existent – has been just a bit overrated by the media this draft season. Secondly, with Baltimore being a franchise that historically, almost exclusively sticks to their board and a best player available approach, I find it hard to believe they will find Stanley to be the best player left on their board when they are picking at No. 6. For this reason, I wouldn’t be surprised if they thought long and hard about picking running back Zeke Elliot of Ohio State. But with the way my hypothetical draft has been playing out so far, it is more likely that they will become enamored with DeForest Buckner, a 6-foot-7 versatile defensive lineman out of Oregon.

The Ravens are a franchise rooted with rich history, albeit not very ancient, but still a rich history nonetheless that is ultimately predicated on hard-nosed defensive football. Since their Super Bowl run of a couple seasons ago, and with the ultimate retirement of legendary linebacker Ray Lewis, they have gotten away from their smash-mouth nature that had them consistently feared by the rest of the NFL. Buckner would enter in his rookie season and right away, through his relentless motor and intensity, reignite the defensive passion in Baltimore that has been missing for the last couple of seasons.

When looking at the tape, his excellent functional strength shows up almost immediately. He’s stout against the run and always seems to be playing heads up, instinctual football. Buckner possesses a powerful punch at the snap of the ball and from there displays excellent hand fighting and palm positioning. His balance is impeccable and he uses it to avoid interior line cut blocks with relative ease. On this play, Buckner extends his arms, keeps his head up and in the backfield, and ultimately ragdolls offensive tackle Jack Conklin – a surefire first round pick out of Michigan State – on his way to blowing up the run play before it even has a chance to get started.

In Buckner, the Ravens have a chance to get their hands on a disruptive interior defensive lineman, the likes of which they haven’t had since Haloti Ngata was in his prime. Expect them to pull the trigger if he’s available at No. 6.

As for their other needs and multitude of draft selections, Baltimore would be wise to target a cornerback next, a wide receiver in the third or fourth, while a guard to replace Kelechi Osemele – who departed in free agency this offseason ­– would be an excellent idea in either the third or with one of their four fourth round picks. Corners to look at in the second round include Artie Burns of Miami and Xavien Howard of Baylor. Potential playmaking wide receivers available in the third and fourth rounds include Tyler Boyd of Pittsburgh, who would perfectly compliment the pure speed of Breshad Perriman – that is if he ever sees the field this upcoming season. Pharaoh Cooper of South Carolina, who would provide Joe Flacco with a true playmaker and x-factor with the ball in his hands, while Kenny Lawler (WR - Cal) would add another dimension to the Ravens offense in that he has potentially dominating red zone ability with his height and go-up-and-get-it combination of talent.

Guards for Baltimore to look at isn’t exactly a shortlist, as Spencer Drango out of Baylor, Connor McGovern out of Missouri, Landon Turner out of UNC, and Christian Westerman of Arizona State, could all come in and help out the Ravens offense from day one.

Cincinnati Bengals

2015 Record: 12-4

2016 Draft Picks: 24, 55, 87, 122, 161, 199, 245

For most of the Andy Dalton era, the Bengals have seemingly always been just one piece away. However, unfortunately they seem to always fall short early on in the playoffs. Last year was no different, but this time Dalton was injured, once again leaving fans dissatisfied and wondering what could have been after another disappointing early round playoff exit. With Dalton back healthy in 2016 and the Bengals' roster pretty well put together, fans will once again enter the draft thinking  their team is just one piece away from making a legitimate playoff run. As of right now, where the Bengals could most benefit from an injection of talent is at the wide receiver spot to give A.J. Green some relief on double teams. Another receiver would also take pressure off of Andy Dalton, subsequently the offensive line, the defense, and ultimately the entire team as a whole. At No. 24 overall, the most logical choice for the job appears to be Will Fuller out of Notre Dame.

To put it bluntly, Fuller is a burner. He ran a blazing fast 4.32 40-time at the Combine last month, and his threat as a home run hitter on any play will open the intermediate parts of the field for both Green and Tyler Eifert to operate. From the looks of his film, I see Fuller right now as a poor man’s DeSean Jackson or a very rich man’s Ted Ginn Jr. While that doesn’t necessarily grade him out as a first rounder or No. 1 target in my eyes, the value he can bring to the Bengals offense would be too hard to pass up on at No. 24.

Serving as the No. 3 option in the Bengals passing game, Fuller would be sure to see plenty of one-on-one coverage on the outside. As a member of the Fighting Irish, Fuller consistently burned 1-v-1 coverage on his way to 29 receiving touchdowns over his last two collegiate seasons. His fluid strides and God-given speed allowed him to make man up corners look helpless; here’s an example, as Fuller torches future first round corner Adorre Jackson of USC for a 75-yard touchdown in 2015.

Also on the Bengals' shortlist of needs include potentially another wideout, a depth interior defensive lineman, a defensive end, and maybe even a backup quarterback if they decide to move on from AJ McCarron.

As the board and their selections break down, they should be targeting a defensive end earliest, a defensive tackle in the third round or so, while depth wide receivers will be available in the fourth. A quarterback to compete for a roster spot can be obtained later on in the draft with the likes of Jeff Driskel of Louisiana Tech, Jacoby Brissett of NC State, Kevin Hogan of Stanford, and Vernon Adams of Oregon all likely available up until the fifth or sixth rounds.

Cleveland Browns

2015 Record: 3-13

2016 Draft Picks: 2, 32, 65, 99, 138, 141, 172, 173, 176, 223

The Browns might be in the most interesting spot of all of the AFC North teams, as they are picking second in the draft, have needed a quarterback since the Clinton administration, and still might take one at No. 2 overall even after bringing in Robert Griffin III to be their starter for 2016.

Griffin’s collapse in Washington was not pretty to watch, as he was built up so much so early on, and was just torn down to almost nothing in a blink of an eye. The new coaching staff all but guaranteed him that he will be starting for them in 2016, however, the Browns would still be stupid to pass up on a potential franchise altering quarterback in Carson Wentz. In my post-free agency mock draft I went into heavy detail as to why the Browns should choose Wentz over Jared Goff, so here I’ll spare you the longwinded treatise and instead just let you watch Wentz toss an absolute dime down the field.

As for the rest of the Browns draft, they can play the board. This isn’t because they are so flush with talent, but because they have so many needs. It may be a luxury that most teams would like to have, but in the Browns' case it is out of necessity. With their second and third round selections, don’t be surprised if they double up on wideouts, as they have almost zero talent at the position, especially after the departure of Travis Benjamin. They could also look for a rush linebacker or defensive end with 32 and 65, whichever player available grades out the highest. With their later round selections, expect Cleveland to look to upgrade at the running back spot, as Isaiah Crowell doesn’t appear to be the answer, while Duke Johnson at the moment appears to be more of a rotational/third down back. The new regime in town could also look to upgrade on both the offensive and defensive lines, but like I said, there really are too many holes on this roster to detail. An absolute overhaul is in order for Cleveland come April.

Pittsburgh Steelers

2015 Record: 10-6

2016 Draft Picks: 25, 58, 89, 123, 220, 229, 246

It has been no secret this entire offseason that the Steelers are looking to upgrade in the secondary headed into 2016. Mostly, I have linked them to Ohio State’s cornerback Eli Apple and No. 25 overall, but recently there have been rumblings that they are smitten with Houston’s William Jackson. Both are rangy corners, something that would bring a nice change of style to the Steelers current lot of DB’s, but for now we will continue to stick with Apple, as the Jackson rumors could just be a smokescreen to artificially boost his draft stock and lower Apple’s.

To be honest, I’m not Apple’s biggest fan, however, he is a corner who brings a lot to the table at just 20 years of age. He’s got a naturally good build for the position, long arms, and excellent athleticism. My knock on him is that he showed on tape an extremely high propensity to grab receivers further than just at the line of scrimmage, but at times even at the top of their routes. Here’s an example of Apple getting overly aggressive with the ball in the air. His lack of experience and underdeveloped frame allows him to be embarrassed on this play, as he is dragged for nearly an extra 20 yards and is luckily not flagged on top of it for pass interference.

With a proper understanding of NFL route combinations, these issues can be rectified or at least masked. Positively for young Mr. Apple, is that at such a young age, he has a ton of room for improvement, making his ceiling higher than most of the other DB’s in this class. Pittsburgh is a well-coached organization that will give him the tools he needs to succeed at the NFL level.

For the rest of the Steelers' needs, most of them remain on the defensive side of the football, as they will look to shore up their interior defensive line, their pass rushers, and inside linebackers in the second, third, and fourth rounds. Expect them to use a "best player available" approach within these positional parameters, while the subsequent selections will be spread out amongst the rest. A late-round wide receiver is also in play considering the loss of Martavis Bryant for the entire upcoming season.

A good second-to-fourth round defensive tackle for the Steelers to target is Austin Johnson out of Penn State. In Pittsburgh, Johnson can use his combination of size, athleticism, and skill to play anywhere from the shade-zero to the five-technique position, serving as an excellent run-stuffing option and even as a plus pass rusher in spurts.

There will be plenty of inside linebackers for the Steelers to choose from in the third round, as Dominique Alexander of Oklahoma and Tyler Matakevich of Temple, while both providing completely different skill-sets, would enter the league and contribute to the Steelers defense from day one.

In the fourth the Steelers would be well served taking a look at Yannick Ngakoue, a pass rushing specialist out of Maryland, who while he has the athletic traits, is still too raw to be relied upon on every down. He had tons of production as a senior at Maryland, but many of his sacks were circumstantial rather than “force plays” that scouts love to see. Here is a glimpse of his explosive pass rushing ability that scouts would have loved to have seen more of, despite his excellent collegiate production.

*** Check back in on Sunday for my breakdown of the NFC West and each team’s specific draft needs.  ***