There are plenty of NFL draft questions in our AFC North inbox this week.
Will from Nashville, Tenn., writes: Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said that he thinks Auburn quarterback Cam Newton has "it." Do you believe this statement or do you see it as Lewis not wanting to burn bridges?
James Walker: This is not a smokescreen, Will. That the Bengals have visited with Newton and traveled to Auburn last week to hold a private workout shows they are interested. Cincinnati is taking starting quarterback Carson Palmer's retirement threats seriously, and I'm convinced the team will take one of the top quarterback prospects this year within the first three rounds. Whether it's Newton at No. 4 remains to be seen. But I believe it would be an awful pairing between a boom-or-bust player and an unstable organization that doesn't have the proper support system in place. I said the same thing two years ago about another boom-or-bust prospect, Andre Smith, although it was for different reasons.
Blake from Dayton, Ohio, writes: Being that the Bengals play in the AFC North, wouldn't it be smarter to take Alabama receiver Julio Jones No. 4 instead of Georgia receiver A.J. Green? Or is the injury too big of a concern?
Walker: The foot injury isn't that big of a deal, Blake. Jones aced the combine with the injury and will only get better once healthy. Both are great prospects, but Green remains the safer pick because he's more consistent. Jones had issues with drops in college, and that's probably the biggest difference between the two.
Thomas Jackson writes: How can you not view cornerback as the No. 1 priority for the Baltimore Ravens?
Walker: ESPN's Mel Kiper and Todd McShay both believe Baltimore will take a cornerback in the first round, Thomas. That's a possibility if the Ravens only look for the best available player at No. 26 and ignore need. With Domonique Foxworth healthy and returning next season, Lardarius Webb a year more experienced and the team likely making a push to re-sign pending free agent Josh Wilson, I don't view corner as the biggest need. Right tackle and another pass-rusher are bigger holes the Ravens should fill. I might even consider a speed burner at receiver for Baltimore ahead of a cornerback.
John Scherzo from Bel Air, Md., writes: Is there anyway the Ravens could be interested in linebacker Vernon Gholston?
Walker: John, It's hard to gauge teams' interest during this lockout, because no one is talking about players. It's not allowed, which leaves only speculation. Sometimes a change in scenery could help. But chances are if Rex Ryan couldn't get anything out of Gholston in two years with the New York Jets, he's probably a bust.
Chris from Washington, D.C., wants to know whether the Pittsburgh Steelers could trade up to land LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson.
Walker: Virtually no chance, Chris. The Steelers are sitting at No. 31 and Peterson is a top-10 pick. Pittsburgh would have to give up most of its draft to make such a dramatic move. Recently we provided a value chart to give fans an idea of what it takes to move up and down the draft board.
Duane from Boardman, Ohio, writes: Wouldn't it be smarter for the Steelers to let cornerback Ike Taylor go if he wants $10 million per season and try to sign a younger corner?
Walker: Duane, it's too early to have a firm grasp on Taylor's value with free agency on ice because of the lockout. But I don't see the Steelers' paying Taylor or most players that type of money. With the draft before free agency, the Steelers should take a cornerback high this year for insurance. There is no guarantee Taylor will return, especially if he gets a big-money offer from another team.
Wilson from Byram, Miss., writes: What will the Cleveland Browns have to do to compete with the Steelers and Ravens year after year?
Walker: It starts with talent, Wilson. The front offices in Cleveland haven't been able to put a roster together to consistently keep up with Baltimore and Pittsburgh. There was a point in 2007 when it appeared the Browns were on the right track, but that fell apart. President Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert are the strongest tandem Cleveland's had since returning to the NFL, and they need to keep closing the gap by adding good players. After that, the coaching has to be up to par.
Eddie Kilroy from Brunswick, Ohio, writes: What are the chances that the Browns go after a linebacker in the second or third round?
Walker: The Browns are fairly comfortable with their linebackers, Eddie. Drafting for that position is more of a possibility in the middle rounds. You're probably going to see Cleveland address the defensive line and receiver positions early. The team might add a cornerback in the mix, as well. The middle and late rounds are probably when you're going to see the Browns look at positions like linebacker, running back and quarterback.