Chat with James Walker
Welcome to SportsNation! On Tuesday, ESPN.com AFC North blogger James Walker will stop by to chat about the NFL and what to expect from your team.
Walker joined ESPN.com in 2008 after three seasons covering the Cleveland Browns for the Columbus Dispatch.
Send your questions now and join James Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET!
James Walker (4:00 PM)
How is everyone today? Let's talk about the AFC North.
if patrick peterson was still on the board, would it be a mistake for the browns to pick him
James Walker (4:02 PM)
Not at all, Eric. Peterson is argaubly the best player in the draft and maybe one of the safest picks. But in terms of need, Cleveland has bigger issues at DL and WR. The Browns do not know what the other teams are thinking, so they have to be prepared for various scenarios at No. 6. I'm not against the Peterson pick. I think he's going to be a great player. But if an equal or better DL is there, the Browns could go there instead.
Cheesehead Sports Nut (Chicago, IL)
Teams that consistently draft towards the end of the first round have the luxury of taking the best player available because presumably they have a talented team based on their draft position. Especially since it looks like the top 10 picks of the draft going forward will get less guaranteed money, do you think more teams should consider employing the best player available draft strategy?
James Walker (4:05 PM)
I think every team, to some degree, takes the "best available player." If not the top guy on its board, the best player who fills the biggest need. Some teams ignore needs more than others, as you mentioned, CS. But I don't think the money changes the draft strategy in that regard. What is could do create more trades with teams not afraid to move into the top 10.
steve new york [via mobile]
what are chances that no qb is drafted in the top 5 picks of the draft
James Walker (4:07 PM)
Hmm. There's always a chance, but I would say not good. At least four of the first five teams have some need at QB to some degree. Usually when a team is struggling it's because it doesn't have a QB. I think at least one goes in the first five picks, and there's a good chance Gabbert and Newton are gone in the top five.
Fuzz (Chicago )
what team do you think the lockout would effect the most.
James Walker (4:09 PM)
I won't speak for every team. But the Cleveland Browns in the AFC North are being hit pretty hard. They have a new coach, new offense, new defense and a very young QB. You can't write up a tougher situation than that. The sooner the Browns can get to work, the better.
Hey James! Regarding Bengal draft picks, do you think during meetings with possible draftees the uncomfortable subject of players being "Bengalized" and what it means to be drafted by one of the worst franchises in all of sports comes up? I've been a Bengals fan for over 20 years and wonder if players dread being drafted by us.
James Walker (4:11 PM)
For college prospects, I don't think it's a big issue. It's a dream to play in the NFL, and I think that takes over any worries about a particular team. If the player is one of the best, they will probably go to a bad team anyway. So, in the eyes of a young player, what's the difference between the Panthers, Bengals and Browns, for example. Plus, the higher they're picked the more money they make. That's is important in their thinking.
Tyler (Canton, OH)
How many other positional power rankings are you guys going to do?
James Walker (4:13 PM)
Funny question, Tyler. Let me just say we have more in store. We haven't even done the quarterbacks yet? You don't want to know who the top QBs are?
jeff (Toledo, Ohio )
If the Bengals go with a QB at #4 (Newton or Gabbert), who will they target in the second round?
James Walker (4:15 PM)
The Bengals can go in a lot of ways. I think there's a better chance of Cincy taking a QB in the second round. But if not, a receiver or defensive lineman could be targets if they select a QB first.
Brandon (Orange County, CA)
Now that its been made public that Bruce Arians and Ben Roethlisberger wanted to pass more, will we finally see more of the no huddle in the burgh?
James Walker (4:17 PM)
It's a little too early to answer that question. Winning comes first and the Steelers were balanced enough last year to make it to the Super Bowl. Roethlisberger missed four games and threw for 3,200 yards. He probably would have reached 4,000 yards for the second straight season if played 16 games. If his goal is 5,000 yards, it's probably not going to happen.
Whom do you prefer as a WR, AJ Green or Julio Jones?
James Walker (4:19 PM)
Both have their strengths. But I think A.J. Green is a little better if you're forcing me to choose one.
What is your take on Joe Flacco's newly acquired "feistiness" this off season?
James Walker (4:22 PM)
Flacco's edge really started during the season. He got into it on the sidelines at times, and that was showing growth. I think now is the time for Flacco, as a QB, to take hold of the role as a leader on the offense. I remember his rookie year and, man, guys rode him pretty hard. Players on defense didn't even call him by his real name until he started winning in the playoffs. They called him "Shane Falco" most of his rookie year.
How good is Colt McCoy? Can he become a good to great QB and lead the Browns to the playoffs?
James Walker (4:25 PM)
I get this question a lot and usually answer it by saying I still need to see more. McCoy only has eight starts under his belt. I saw some good things and bad things, but I will say the Browns like him. This is a big second season for him. He needs to show growth, especially if the Browns want to compete against the Ravens and Steelers.
Do you think the Steelers could be a surprise dark horse candidate for Sidney Rice? He is everything Burress was but with a Steelers-type character.
James Walker (4:26 PM)
The Steelers rarely go for big-name free agents on other teams. So I would rule this out. Pittsburgh has a good group of receivers anyway, despite the fact most are young.
Who has better numbers next year: Antonio Brown or Emmanuel Sanders?
James Walker (4:28 PM)
Emmanuel Sanders is more complete at this stage and ahead on the depth chart, which helps. But both are hungry and fearless. The healthy competition between the two actually helped both players develop last season. I remember all the way back to training camp they were trying to top each other by making tough catches.
Do you think it would be a mistake not resigning Le'Ron McClain?
James Walker (4:30 PM)
It's really up to the Ravens and McClain to figure out if both sides are still a fit. McClain is a very good fullback and made the Pro Bowl at that position. Baltimore obviously can use him there. But McClain wants more carries and the Ravens have running backs ahead of him. He will probably test free agency to see what opportunities are out there to run the ball more.
Mike (Bowling Green)
What Defensive Ends do you think are likely to be on the board when the Browns draft?
James Walker (4:33 PM)
There should be plenty of them. Robert Quinn, J.J. Watt, Da'Quan Bowers. But all have their questions.
Kovacs (Santa Monica)
JW - What's your favorite part of the NFL draft process?
James Walker (4:35 PM)
What's up, Kovacs? I never really thought about this question. I'm not sure I have a particular part that's best. I know my least favorite are the smokescreens and trying to separate what's real.
Zack (Concord, NC)
James, Do you think Hillis has a chance for the madden cover? I want your vote! Rogers is cool but Hillis is a beast. Go Browns
James Walker (4:37 PM)
Hillis has made it to the Final Four, so of course he has a shot. Browns fans have really been behind Hillis. In some ways, it's been there Super Bowl and I think the Dawgpound, from what I've seen, is taking this very seriously. Also, I'm convince you have a group of voters from rival teams like the Ravens and Steelers supporting Hillis as well. But beating Aaron Rodgers and winning the next round will be tough.
mike (new jersey)
if you were the steelers would you pick an Ol or a CB in the first round? also, if brandon harris, jimmy smith, and aaron williams somehow are still on the board who do you think they target if they corner?
James Walker (4:39 PM)
I would go cornerback because of the uncertainty of Ike Taylor. He's a free agent, and with the CB market sky high right now, you just never know. Of the three, Smith wouldn't fit because of character concerns. Harris and Williams...pretty close. But all three probably won't be at No. 31 anyway.
What are the chances of the Pouncey brothers playing together next year?
James Walker (4:41 PM)
I don't see Mike Pouncey dropping to No. 31. If Pittsburgh really wants it, it would likely take a trade up to get him. The Steelers have done that in the past for players.
Alan (Cheviot Hills, CA)
What are the chances of the Pouncey Brothers playing against each other next year?
James Walker (4:43 PM)
Haha. Good one, Alan. I assume you are talking about the Ravens, because the Steelers will have various opponents on their schedule Mike Pouncey could get drafted by. Although center/guard isn't Baltimore's biggest need, the Ravens do like Pouncey and I think you have to consider him if he falls in your lap at No. 26. But a pass rusher or right tackle are bigger needs.
Alan (Cheviot Hills, CA)
Receiver's and Pass rushers seem to be the talk when it comes to the Browns early picks, but don't they still need a big body to pair with Rubin in the middle?
James Walker (4:46 PM)
Yes, the Browns need pluggers as well in a 4-3 defense. But you can't patch everything up at once. The fact that they have a pretty good player in Rubin at one spot helps ease the pressure at DT a bit. The Browns don't have much at WR or DE.
Why do the Steelers refuse to carry a pure fullback on their team? Ever since Kreider left, the power running game has not been the same.
James Walker (4:48 PM)
Pittsburgh did have Carey Davis at one time, but I see your point. Bruce Arians' offense goes heavy on multiple receivers and two tight ends. There's really not a lot of plays available for a pure fullback, so they don't keep one on the roster. Backup TE David Johnson has done a solid job there when needed.
Brandon (Columbus, OH)
If you were to guess what positions do Steelers go after in the first three rounds?
James Walker (4:49 PM)
In no particular order, CB, OL and DL.
Tom Heckert has talked a lot about Carlton Mitchell this offseason. Do you think he can make an impact next year at WR?
James Walker (4:51 PM)
I like some of the things I saw from Mitchell in camps last year. He has good size. But he was too raw to get on the field for the Browns, so he would have to make major strides in his second year. It's too early to say. But with Cleveland's WR corps the way it is, there is an opportunity for playing time.
Are rumors true with the whole Palmer and Miami situation? If they are wouldnt that be best thing to do with Palmer?
James Walker (4:53 PM)
The Bengals, to my knowledge, are not entertaining any trades. They couldn't make a move now if they wanted to anyway. But I'm sure Miami and several teams would be interested in Carson Palmer if he would become available.
if you were to take an early guess on who wins the afc north who would it be and what seed number would they be?
James Walker (4:56 PM)
C'mon Nick. It's waaay too early for that. The rosters aren't even filled with draft picks and free agents. I'm probably not making any firm predictions until I see these teams in training camp at the earliest.
james, i always send questions to your chat and i haven't gotten one reply! please! most probable cornerback pick for the steelers at 31?
James Walker (4:58 PM)
Sorry, Ben. It's not personal. This is not to say the Steelers are definitely going cornerback. But if they do, I would predict Aaron Williams from Texas could be there at No. 31.
joseph (Chicago, IL)
Do you really think the Ravens will draft CB Jimmy Smith like all the mock drafts say?
James Walker (4:59 PM)
I could be wrong, but I think the Ravens will pass on a CB in the first round this year. Too many good players available at bigger positions of need.
James Walker (5:00 PM)
Everyone, thanks again for your time. Remember to check out the AFC North blog and AFC North Twitter for constant updates on the division.