Ranking team needs: Defensive line

April, 20, 2013
4/20/13
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The AFC North blog continues to look at the different positions and rank each team in terms of draft need. For Saturday, the blog is addressing the defensive line.

Mel Kiper Jr.'s top five defensive ends are: BYU's Ezekiel Ansah (who can also be a 3-4 outside linebacker), UCLA's Datone Jones, Auburn's Corey Lemonier, Florida State's Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine.

His top five defensive tackles are: Utah's Star Lotulelei, Florida's Sharrif Floyd, Missouri's Sheldon Richardson, North Carolina's Sylvester Williams and Georgia's Jonathan Jenkins.

Here are the rankings:

1. Pittsburgh Steelers: Two starting linemen, Brett Keisel and Ziggy Hood, are free agents next year. The only starter currently under contract beyond this season is nose tackle Steve McLendon, who signed a three-year deal this week. There is the potential that Cameron Heyward will take over for Keisel in 2014 and the Steelers can re-sign Hood, who hasn't lived up to expectations of being a first-round pick. Outside of Heyward, the only backups are Alameda Ta'amu, who made more headlines off the field, and journeyman Al Woods. Richardson, Williams and Jones, all potential first-round picks, project to be 3-4 defensive ends. SMU's Margus Hunt is another intriguing 3-4 end prospect.

2. Baltimore Ravens: General manager Ozzie Newsome said the Ravens had to improve up the middle on defense, and that starts with the defensive line. The Ravens added Chris Canty and Marcus Spears in free agency, although Spears could be a one-year stopgap. There's also a chance that the Ravens pick up a nose tackle because Terrence Cody has been a disappointment and Ma'ake Kemoeatu remains unsigned. Defensive end Arthur Jones is a free agent next season, so Baltimore could look at taking someone to develop this year. Also, defensive end Pernell McPhee is moving to back up Terrell Suggs at rush linebacker, which opens up a backup spot at defensive end.

3. Cleveland Browns: The Browns are stocked up as far as their two-deep depth chart on the defensive line. The starters are: free-agent addition Desmond Bryant, Phil Taylor and Ahytba Rubin. The backups are: Billy Winn, John Hughes and Ishmaa'ily Kitchen. There is a question of whether Winn is big enough to play an end in a 3-4 defense. Other than that, there are no immediate needs on the defensive front.

4. Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals return all four starters from the best defensive line in the AFC North in Geno Atkins, Michael Johnson, Carlos Dunlap and Domata Peko. Cincinnati has great depth in Robert Geathers and Wallace Gilberry at the ends and has young talent inside in Brandon Thompson and Devon Still, both of whom were drafted a year ago. The Bengals don't have to use any picks on the defensive line this year.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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