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AFC North mailbag: Browns draft plans

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

We have tons of questions filing into the AFC North inbox with free agency set to get underway on Friday.

So let's dig into the mailbag.

Michael from Charlotte writes: What do you think about the Browns going after a right tackle in the first round of the draft? Everyone knows how horrible the defense was, but I think a large part of that was due to the offense going 3 and out the majority of the time.

James Walker: If I'm a GM, there are two things I would never do, Michael. One, I would never draft a receiver in the top five. Two, I would never draft a RIGHT tackle in the top five. Cleveland took a left tackle two years ago in Joe Thomas, who is a stud. So whoever the Browns take at tackle with the first pick would be playing the less important right side. But drafting in the top five, that player is going to make top five, left tackle-type of money. It's not a good investment when there are so many other positions that need to be filled.


Joseph from Victoria Tx writes: James, what are your thoughts on the opportunity for Beau Bell and/or Alex Hall to fit into Mangini's D next season? Hall got some time last year but Bell was a non-factor. Given that the Browns are searching for a tough LB unit, are these guys labeled as backups or is there promise for their future?

James Walker: The expectations for this pair were overblown because the Browns had no first-day picks in 2008. Hall showed some flashes early, but didn't grow as the season went on. He has some potential but not as a starter, which is where he's currently projected. Beau Bell had knee problems for most of the year, so no one saw much from him. He's physical but not very athletic. They both have a lot of holes in their games but that's about what you should expect from a pair of late-round picks.


Reader from Philly writes: Any chance that new free agent Jeff Saturday lands in the Steel City? I'm tired of seeing Big Ben on the ground and I think this would be a great addition.

James Walker: When it comes to the Steelers, I usually rule out any free agents over 30, and Jeff Saturday, 33, fits in that category. Plus, Saturday is more of a pass-protecting center. A majority of the AFC North plays 3-4 defenses and needs a physical center to handle the bigger nose tackles.


Jason from Orlando, FL writes: the Steelers drafted Tony Hills the LT out of Texas last year, is there any word about how the Steelers feel he can fit in? Could he start at RT next season, or was he a bad pick?

And Mike Foster writes: Here's hoping Max Starks stays a Steeler. With that said, what about putting Tony Hills in at left guard? Athletic, former tight end, barring injury might have been drafted higher. What do you think?

James Walker: A lot of Steelers fans have interest in Tony Hills lately, and my best advice would be to slow down these expectations. Hills is a project, a fourth-round pick in 2008 who needs to learn the NFL game. His injury cost him a couple rounds, but from the little I saw from him last year he is still raw and needs time to develop. Hills is not a starter at this point.