Ranking draft needs: Wide receivers

April, 17, 2013
4/17/13
2:00
PM ET
The AFC North blog continues to look at the different positions and rank each team in terms of draft need. For Wednesday, the blog is addressing wide receivers. Mel Kiper Jr.'s top five receivers are: West Virginia's Tavon Austin, Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter, California's Keenan Allen (before he was red-flagged for a drug test) and Southern California's Robert Woods.

Here's the rankings ...

1. Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens traded Anquan Boldin to the 49ers for a sixth-round pick and have yet to replace him. Torrey Smith is expected to take over Boldin's role as the No. 1 receiver, but Jacoby Jones is seen more as a returner than a receiver. That leaves a big hole in the starting lineup. Team officials said Tandon Doss, David Reed and Deonte Thompson all will have shots at stepping up. But none of them have shown any promise during their limited playing time. The Ravens have been linked to wide receivers in the first round from Allen to Woods to Louisiana Tech's Quinton Patton. Based on need, the Ravens should take a receiver somewhere in the first three rounds.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers: This would be a bigger need if the Steelers hadn't matched the New England Patriots' offer sheet to Emmanuel Sanders. Pittsburgh has one of the quickest receiver tandems in the league in Sanders and Antonio Brown. There's a big drop-off after them. Right now, the third receiver is either Jerricho Cotchery or Plaxico Burress. This is why some have linked the Steelers to Patterson in the first round. He's a playmaker with the ball in his hands but he tends to disappear for long stretches in games. The last wide receiver taken in the first round by the Steelers was Santonio Holmes in 2006.

3. Cleveland Browns: Josh Gordon and Greg Little are far from established, but the Browns are hopeful both will develop. The expectations for Gordon have been heightened after making 50 catches and five touchdowns. Little has the potential to be the complementary No. 2 target if he can cut down on his drops. The third receiver could be either David Nelson, who is expected to be finished rehabbing his knee by training camp, or the undersized Travis Benjamin. Like last year, the Browns will probably take a wide receiver somewhere in the middle rounds.

4. Cincinnati Bengals: You could make the case that the Bengals should rank second on this list because they don't have a proven No. 2 receiver opposite A.J. Green. Some have projected the Bengals to take a wide receiver early in the draft, and you can't rule that out. The Bengals, though, have repeatedly talked about how much they like this receiving group of Mohamed Sanu, Andrew Hawkins, Marvin Jones and Brandon Tate. As far as offense, wide receiver ranks behind offensive tackle and running back in terms of need. The Bengals may still draft a wide receiver, but it seems like it will be in the later rounds.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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