This season is expected to be a close race in the division. So the drafts of the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns could go a long way toward determining who comes out on top.
With that said, here is a look at the decisions made this week in the AFC North:
The "Wizard of Oz" was at it again. After trading out of the first round for the first time in franchise history, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome came back strong in the second round by grabbing two first-round talents in linebacker Sergio Kindle and defensive tackle Terrence "Mount" Cody.
Baltimore passed over some good players in the first round when the team traded its No. 25 overall pick to the Denver Broncos, who surprisingly selected former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. In return the Ravens got three valuable picks and selected two potentials steals on defense in Kindle and Cody.
"Well, I think the biggest thing that we did [is] we got guys that we wouldn't want to play against," Ravens director of player personnel Eric DeCosta said. "You know, these guys all have, really, a dominant trait in some respect. They do different things very well, and that's intriguing in our situation to get a linebacker that can really rush the passer -- a very explosive guy. And then we've had a lot of success over the years with these massive run-stuffers. Terrence Cody is that guy."
The Ravens had Kindle rated very high on their board and weren't scared off by injury concerns about his knee. That was the reason he fell to the second round. Cody has weight issues. But if he's able to keep that under control, Cody can be a force alongside Pro Bowler Haloti Ngata to create one of the biggest pairings of defensive tackles in the league.
It's hard to doubt the Steelers with their stellar track record. But they did ignore more immediate needs in the top half of this year's draft.
Pittsburgh passed over help in other areas early to grab pass-rushers Jason Worilds and Thaddeus Gibson. Barring injuries, this pair of outside linebackers will have a very hard time getting on the field while sitting behind Pro Bowlers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley.
Worilds and Gibson could turn out to be productive players at some point. But if I had rated positions of need for the Steelers entering this draft, outside linebacker would have been last.
In particular, there were plenty of quality defensive linemen available in the first three or four rounds who could've provided a more immediate impact in Pittsburgh's defensive rotation. But the team did a solid job addressing another immediate need at cornerback by trading with the Arizona Cardinals for former Steelers starter Bryant McFadden.
Most surprising move
The Browns really liked McCoy, particularly his intangibles and accuracy, but felt they had more pressing needs to address early in the draft. Cleveland instead plugged holes in the secondary and at running back for three rounds as McCoy surprisingly slid further than expected.
When the Browns came up at No. 85 overall, Cleveland finally got its quarterback of the future.
"In Colt's case, I really didn't think that he would be available to us," Browns president Mike Holmgren said. "I really felt that he would go before we had a chance to pick him. But when it didn't happen, it was something I really wanted to do and [coach] Eric [Mangini] and [GM] Tom [Heckert] went along with me and there you have it."
McCoy, a projected early second-rounder, wasn't too thrilled about his slide. But it could work in his favor.
As much as the city of Cleveland tends to love its backup quarterbacks, McCoy is coming to the Browns as a low third-rounder and without a ton of pressure to perform immediately.
Veteran quarterback Jake Delhomme is the starter in 2010, and the team has an experienced backup in Seneca Wallace. So McCoy should be able to hold a clipboard, learn the offense and get used to the NFL game for a full season before Cleveland thinks about putting him on the field.
"I don't expect him to play this year," Holmgren said. "We didn't draft [McCoy] to play this year."
File it away
The Bengals' third-round selection of Texas receiver Jordan Shipley adds a tremendous amount of competition to Cincinnati's receiving corps. Out of necessity, expect a surprise cut or two at the position coming out of training camp.
Pro Bowler Chad Ochocinco and free-agent pickup Antonio Bryant are set as the two starters. But Shipley, Andre Caldwell, Matt Jones, Quan Cosby and former second-round pick Jerome Simpson also will compete for roles on the team.
There are not enough roster spots to carry everyone. Could this be the year Cincinnati cuts ties with Simpson, who has been a bust his first two seasons? Or will the controversial signing of Jones, who’s had off-field troubles and was out of football last season, be for naught? Cosby, last year's punt returner, also is a possible cut.
The Bengals have a lot of options in their passing game, which struggled at the end of last season. But they will have to make some key decisions about who will be a part of it in 2010.