CINCINNATI -- Bengals Pro Bowl left offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth told ESPN on Wednesday evening a tweet criticizing team president Mike Brown that was sent from his Twitter account earlier in the afternoon was sent accidentally.

"Mike Brown told me I'm done here," the tweet from Whitworth's account read. "Said I can play this year and go home. So I told him I want a raise or I'll sit my ass at home this …"

[+] EnlargeAndrew Whitworth
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsAndrew Whitworth caused a stir on Twitter this afternoon with a tweet from his account criticizing team president Mike Brown. The tweet has since been deleted.

Whitworth said the social-media message originated from his wife, and that it was intended to be sent as a private message to one of Whitworth's teammates.

"Anybody that knows her knows she's sarcastic," Whitworth said. "She was just trying to be funny with the teammate."

Whitworth added that his wife was distraught.

Minutes after the tweet went live, it was deleted. Not long after that, Whitworth's account was deleted, too. He confirmed he made both changes.

Before too long, however, Whitworth reactivated his account, making it private. One of his first messages repeated what he told ESPN.

"Twitter 101 with the Wife for Mothers Day! Don't respond to text with a Blue Bird!!!" the tweet read. "If you know her, you know its just her!! lol"

Earlier this week, Whitworth made waves when he called out the Bengals for what he believed was a lack of progress on his potential contract extension. The 10-year veteran who has spent his entire career in Cincinnati criticized the Bengals for having poor "customer service."

"It's pretty easy to prove my contributions to this franchise over the last 10 years and you've got a guy fighting for his life?" Whitworth said Monday. "I think I've earned more than that."

The 33-year-old's career began with one .500 season and a pair of losing campaigns. In the last six years, though, he has been a key part of a complete turnaround. The Bengals have made it to the playoffs in five of those six seasons, including the last four. It's the longest string of playoff berths they have had in franchise history.

Whitworth discussed his contract status after having been asked his thoughts on the Bengals selecting two offensive tackles within their first two picks of last weekend's draft. Although he said he would mentor both rookies -- and already has, inviting them to his house to watch last Saturday's Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight -- Whitworth said he was surprised the Bengals took the players without telling him before the draft. Coach Marvin Lewis said he and Brown discussed that possibility days before the draft.

Whitworth is one of 26 players entering contract years. The team captain said Monday he would like a new deal with the Bengals before the season begins.

The Cleveland Browns traded down to select linebacker Nate Orchard with the 51st overall pick.

He has quite a story.

Orchard's full name is Napaa Lilo Fakahafua Orchard. Until 2013, he was Nate Fakahafua.

[+] EnlargeNate Orchard
Boyd Ivey/Icon SportswireLinebacker Nate Orchard, the Browns' second-round pick, has come a long way in his young 22 years.

His parents are from Tonga, and he was born in Inglewood, California. He never knew his father, and his mother, beset with financial ills, eventually sent him to live when he was 10 or 11 with his older brother Max in Salt Lake City. Max had two children and a third on the way when Nate moved in.

Three years later, Max had his own financial problems and moved in with his in-laws; Nate had to find a home. He felt going back to California was a dead end, so he asked his basketball coach if he could move in with his family. Dave and Katherine Orchard had taken in other kids. They initially hesitated, wondering if it was too much.

When Nate showed up at the house one day in need of a place to stay, they had him stay the night. That turned into the next eight years.

The first morning with the Orchards, Nate had to ask what Katherine had made when she gave him a toasted English muffin. The Orchards became his legal guardians when they realized Nate did not have medical coverage during a near-drowning incident in a rip tide on vacation at Newport Beach.

"They've been great to me, never gave up on me," Orchard said. "I ran away a lot as a kid, was stubborn and didn't want to be in the environment. It was such a culture shock, but I made it work."

One time he ran away for three weeks. He also fathered a daughter at age 15, whom he gave up for adoption (though he sees her often). Maturity and comfort came in time. In March 2013, he married his high school girlfriend, Maegen Webber, and took the Orchard name -- as a tribute.

"I knew that the Orchard family was true to me," he said.

Nate and Maegen had a daughter. They named her Katherine, after Katherine Orchard.

Orchard went to Utah as a receiver, then moved to defensive end where he played an end/linebacker hybrid. He seems like a natural athlete who can adjust. His tackle numbers went from 48 to 50 to 84, his tackles for a loss from 9.5 to 9 to to 21 and his sacks from 3 to 3.5 to 18.5.

That last number jumps out.

"It was a mindset," he said, "being married and having the stability and realizing that football is the way that I am going to feed my family and I have to take it more seriously and do my work and become the best player I know I can be, and I did just that."

Orchard mentioned "converting" to linebacker, which indicates he spent most of his time at end. At the NFL scouting combine, he said he dropped into coverage 10-to-15 times per game.

A YouTube highlight of Orchard's two sacks against Stanford shows him rushing from the stand-up position on the left side, and with both hands down on the right side. His quickness is evident in the second sack. Another highlight film of Orchard against Colorado State shows Orchard playing mainly with his hand down, and mainly rushing the passer.

Orchard will have to master the skills of dropping into coverage, and learn to play standing up.

The advantage he has is that he's switched positions successfully before, and the kind of switch he's making -- from down end to stand-up linebacker in a 3-4 -- is happening more and more often in the NFL.

The bigger advantage: This adjustment pales compared to the adjustments he's had to make throughout his life.

The Baltimore Ravens did more than come away with new pass catchers for Joe Flacco, a young run stopper and a well-rounded running back. With its first eight draft picks, Baltimore brought in players with no off-the-field incidents.

This is an important theme for the Ravens after the team had eight players arrested over the last two seasons. While many of the cases were dismissed or resolved by a pre-trial diversion program, the Ravens want to show the flurry of arrests are an aberration.

Ravens president Dick Cass said at the NFL owners meetings in March that the team had to "re-examine everything," and assistant general manager Eric DeCosta recently said the Ravens have to "scrutinize every piece of information" when evaluating draft prospects.

Baltimore went strong on character in last week's draft. The Ravens added smart players and prospects who've displayed strong leadership qualities. More importantly, none of their top picks comes with red flags.

The draft could have played out differently, especially if a player with character issues like cornerback Marcus Peters had fallen to the Ravens. But, based on the players they drafted, the Ravens came away with prospects who graded favorably on intangibles by Scouts, Inc.

The Ravens' first two picks, wide receiver Breshad Perriman and tight end Maxx Williams, were both all-conference academic selections. Williams was a first-team academic all-american.

Linebacker Za'Darius Smith, a fourth-round selection, was placed on the leadership council at Kentucky. Running back Buck Allen, another fourth-rounder, has a reputation for putting the team first, according to Scouts, Inc. And tight end Nick Boyle, a fifth-round pick, was a team captain at Delaware last season.

The only Ravens' draft pick who had character issues was their last one, wide receiver Darren Waller. There have been questions about his maturity after he was suspended three games over the last two seasons at Georgia Tech.

Ravens director of college scouting Joe Hortiz questioned Waller about the incidents at the East-West Shrine game.

"He has made some mistakes when he was younger, and he was honest and up front about it and didn’t hide from it," Hortiz said. "He told us about his plan, and how he’s dealing with it, how he has continued to deal with it. I came away impressed with how mature he became and his plan going forward. Sometimes you go into an interview with some of these guys and you’re thinking you’re ready to walk away and use it as the final dagger, and it was the opposite. I really was impressed with the way he carried himself and handled himself.”

The Ravens received high marks for their ability to address needs and get good value on their picks. Baltimore also did a fine job in bringing in players with strong backgrounds.

CINCINNATI -- Gather around, it's story time.

How did the barely 5-foot-8, 180-pound Mario Alford become a prime pre-draft target for the Cincinnati Bengals?

Because of his pro day.

[+] EnlargeMario Alford
Julio Cortez/AP PhotoMario Alford ran a fast 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine, but it was his pro day performance that won over Bengals scouts.

From running routes to how he caught passes to the way he performed in on-field tests, Alford had what the Bengals felt was an impressive overall day at West Virginia in March.

One member of the Bengals' scouting party who was there said the team was most impressed with the way he performed during a series of 40-yard sprints. By the end of them, the Bengals convinced themselves if Alford was on the big board in the later rounds, they had to pounce on him.

Cincinnati's coaches knew there was a chance the mid-round projections many outsiders had on Alford early in the draft process probably wouldn't stand because so many teams would be turned off by his size. So they had a hunch he'd be a late Day 3 selection.

They were right, because as you now know, they ultimately were the ones who took the Greenville, Georgia, native in the seventh round Saturday. Alford was the 238th overall pick.

Get this. During the 40-yard timing session, Alford ran three times. If you're thinking, "But I thought players were only permitted to run the 40 two times at a pro day?" you're right.

After blazing through a first trial run that had most team scouts murmuring among themselves about getting 4.31-second readings on their stopwatches, Alford stepped up to the line for his second run, trying to better the 4.31 and the 4.43 time he had at the combine.

He dug his feet into the turf. And took off.

The coach conducting the exercise didn't like the way Alford had started. So he started yelling. He wanted Alford back to the starting line to start over.

But the speedy receiver/kick returner was having none of that.

As if wearing massive noise-canceling headphones around his ears, Alford ignored the coach's pleas and kept sprinting toward the end line. Most scouts hadn't stopped their watches. By the time Alford crossed the finish, many of them murmured again among themselves.

He had run a 4.27.

Still, because of the false start, Alford was forced into running one more time to ensure he really was at a 4.27 and that he didn't shave a couple of milliseconds because of the favorable start.

On the third try, with a clean start, Alford dashed by scouts even faster than he did the first two times. The Bengals looked down at their watches: 4.25 seconds.

It was one of the fastest times any player had posted during this year's pre-draft process. Miami's Phillip Dorsett also ran a 4.25 a couple of weeks later at his pro day in Coral Gables, Florida. Alford said on a conference call with Bengals reporters Saturday that his 4.25 was the fastest 40 he's ever recorded.

What most impressed the Bengals' scouting crew was he got faster the more he ran. It was a subtle sign the "high motor" term you hear bandied about too often this time of year really existed within Alford.

If the rookie makes the team coming out of training camp, he probably won't have many regular-season receptions. But the Bengals feel comfortable using him at any of the receiver positions and getting him in space. He also has clear return ability, as his two kickoff returns for touchdowns indicate.

Bud DupreeJeff Haynes/AP Images for PaniniBud Dupree could have been a top-10 pick, but fell to the Steelers at No. 22.


The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens have made a habit of drafting well, and this year is no different.

A poll of the AFC North writers in ESPN’s NFL Nation said the Steelers had the best draft in the division, with the Ravens close behind.

Pittsburgh finished first, with two first-place votes and two seconds. The Ravens were close behind in second, with with two first-place votes but adding a fourth-place vote to go with a second.

The voting results, with one point for first place and four for fourth:

  1. Pittsburgh (6 points)
  2. Baltimore (8)
  3. Cleveland Browns (12)
  4. Cincinnati Bengals (14)

Here’s the appropriate commentary:

Jeremy Fowler (Steelers): Every team in the division had a successful draft. No losers here. But as Jamison should know, Ozzie Newsome's the king. Receiver Breshad Perriman, tight end Maxx Williams and defensive tackle Carl Davis are perfect for what Baltimore wants to do, a collision of need satisfaction and best player available. Pittsburgh did much of the same. Bud Dupree could have gone as high as No. 8; the Steelers got him at 22. Rebuilding the secondary with shorter, playmaking cornerbacks is a calculated risk, to be sure, but it should pay off. The Bengals and Browns are a wash -- both were solid. Does Cincinnati really need two tackles in the first two rounds, Coley? I say yes. The team is placing the onus directly on Andy Dalton, getting him versatile Rutgers tight end Tyler Kroft, too. The Browns got several potential starters out of their 12 picks, led by impressive linemen Danny Shelton and Cam Erving, but Pat knows my beef here. Ignoring a loaded wideout pool and failing to take a playmaker of any kind in the first 75 picks could be a regrettable move.

Jamison Hensley (Ravens): How did the Ravens not get selected for the best draft this year? It feels like my AFC North colleagues are conspiring against Baltimore here. If nothing else, the Ravens should have been No. 1 based on trading up in the second round to steal the draft's best tight end away from the Steelers. The fact that the Ravens teamed up with Bruce Arians, who was forced out of Pittsburgh, to get Maxx Williams should give them extra bonus points. The Steelers didn't get a coveted cornerback in the first round and took Dupree, who could follow Jarvis Jones and Jason Worilds as underachieving pass-rushers. The Browns were still the Browns, failing to come out of the draft with a quarterback or a top-tier wide receiver. And the Bengals are still the Bengals, taking risks with players who have character issues (Paul Dawson and Josh Shaw). Coley, how could the Bengals ignore their needs at edge rusher and wide receiver?

Pat McManamon (Browns): Waah, waah, waah. Cry me a Chesapeake from the guy in Baltimore who would probably defend Art Modell in Cleveland. Go have some more crabby cakes, Mr. Hensley. Besides, I voted Baltimore second. Coley Harvey was the guy who had them last in the division. I gave Pittsburgh the top vote because they continue to approach the draft in ways other teams should emulate, combining need with talent and always seeming to come up with a solid, sound group. I was sitting next to Jeremy Fowler when receiver Sammie Coates' highlight reel came on TV during the draft. Without knowing who picked him, Fowler pointed out Coates would have been a good pick for the Browns. The tape showed a big, fluid guy who could catch the ball and make plays. "Who took him?" Fowler wondered, then a second later saw the team. "Pittsburgh," he said. "Figures." I love Ozzie Newsome and I credit Baltimore for the trade up for Williams, but do we give them too much credit for the no-brainer that was Perriman when he fell in their lap? Would the Ravens take Ken Dorsey if one of the Mannings was on the board? The Browns had a solid draft, but even as solid as it was, they still lag behind their three division rivals -- in draft and on-field results. As for Cincinnati, Coley, I see no issue with drafting two tackles when Andrew Whitworth is 33 and coming up on a contract decision. It's called planning. It's cold and heartless, but with this approach the Bengals have been to the playoffs four years in a row and five of the last six.

Coley Harvey (Bengals): Are we looking at this division’s draft through the same lenses, guys? I’m not sure I’m ready to anoint the Ravens the winners of the AFC North draft derby. At least not yet. Here’s the thing, like Jeremy said, there really were no losers in this draft. I’d certainly put the AFC North’s draft class up against any of the others. Because I felt each team’s draft classes were so close, I based any close calls upon who had the best first round. When you talked to scouts and personnel folks before the draft, many felt there were only about 15 players worthy of first-round grades. Players 15-50 were a mass of second-round options who could have been picked virtually anywhere in that range. So, using that logic, there were only 15 players who should be true immediate impact players. I have the same concern about Dupree long term, Jamison, but I really liked that pick for Pittsburgh, not to mention the Coates pick you and Jeremy liked, Pat. Similarly, Cleveland had a strong start taking Shelton and Erving in the first round. It was a sign the Browns are trying to beef up in the trenches. (What about at receiver, though?!) Perriman may fit the Ravens’ needs better than some of the smaller receivers who were still on the board at 26, but he still seems a reach. People I talked to before the draft really liked his speed out of pads, but questioned his game quickness. As for the Bengals, yes, Pat, Whitworth needs to put on the big-boy pants he says he has. And he will. Sure, taking two offensive tackles in Rounds 1 and 2 seems crazy but this was all about gearing up for a future of trying to win the always physical AFC North. Jeremy’s right, it’s a good crazy. Speaking of, Pat, I’m not that loco, am I?

This will make Pittsburgh Steelers fans beam with pride -- or cringe, if the so-called Madden curse spooks you.

Steelers receiver Antonio Brown is one of four finalists to make the Madden NFL 16 football game cover, which will be revealed May 13 at 6 p.m. ET. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson and Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. are also in the mix.

Says EA Sports about Brown: In a word, Antonio Brown is unstoppable. He led the NFL in catches and receiving yards in 2014, and he holds an NFL record with 32 straight games with at least five catches and 50 yards.

Brown can become the first Steeler to grace the cover since Troy Polamalu in 2010. Some NFL players have struggled on the field after donning the cover -- Vince Young and Shaun Alexander come to mind -- but Polamalu did just fine, as did '15 cover Richard Sherman.

Gronkowski and Beckham will be a tough out. Gotta think Brown has the edge over Peterson, maybe more.

CINCINNATI -- Yes, it's still only May.

But ESPN's team of more than 80 writers, editors and television personalities have already teamed up for a post-draft league Power Rankings. Can these Power Rankings tell us much about the 2015 season right now? Probably not.

Regardless, the Cincinnati Bengals check in at No. 10, one spot lower than they were in the end-of-season rankings published at the start of last year's playoffs.

As you can see in the link above, the slight drop appears to be attributed to the Bengals' lack of drafting impact players for a deep 2015 run.

As someone who voted the Bengals seventh on his Power Rankings ballot, I can't say I agree with the No. 10 ranking. The goal, in my mind, was to consider where teams were -- not only after the draft, but after free agency, too. To me, the Bengals improved this offseason, even if they didn't address many immediate needs directly through the draft.

Sure, they only added one true pass-rusher in defensive tackle Marcus Hardison during the draft, but don't forget Michael Johnson's return in March. Although he had a comparatively difficult 2014 season in Tampa Bay, there is a belief in Cincinnati that he will be better largely because he knows this system much better than he knew the Buccaneers' scheme. Part of his struggles last season were the product of learning the new defense. He also spent the entire season nursing an ankle injury. Now back with the team that drafted him, a healthier Johnson should perform better this season.

The Bengals also added depth this offseason on the offensive line, a clear indication they are trying to keep Andy Dalton protected and keep the ball on the ground. Running Jeremy Hill will have another year of experience, and Giovani Bernard's load might be lessened with added opportunities for backup running back Rex Burkhead. The pass-catchers also received a jolt this offseason with Marvin Jones and tight end Tyler Eifert coming back from season-long injuries.

Could this Bengals team win a playoff game? Who knows. Are they better than No. 10 in the NFL? I think so, but 10th isn't a bad place to be, either. Does it really matter if they're first, 10th or 32nd right now? Nope, after all, it's still only May.

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Here's a look at who benefited and who did not from what the Baltimore Ravens did in the 2015 NFL draft:

WINNERS

RB Justin Forsett: His grip on the starting job got stronger after the Ravens waited until the fifth round to select a running back. There would've been more immediate competition for the featured back role if Baltimore had come away with Melvin Gordon (first round), T.J. Yeldon (second round), Ameer Abdullah or Tevin Coleman (third round).

CBs Lardarius Webb, Asa Jackson and Rashaan Melvin: The Ravens were looking to bring in someone they could immediately plug in as a top-three cornerback, but the draft board didn't fall their way. Baltimore selected developmental cornerback Tray Walker in the fourth round, which means Webb remains the starter and Jackson and Melvin are the front-runners for the nickelback job. It would be a different story if Kevin Johnson or Marcus Peters had slipped to the Ravens in the first round.

QB Joe Flacco: The Ravens didn't just give their strong-armed quarterback one deep threat. Baltimore added three targets who can stretch the field. Three draft picks -- Breshad Perriman (20.9), Maxx Williams (15.8) and Darren Waller (15.8) -- all averaged over 15 yards per catch last season. This should fill that vertical void left by the departures of Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones.

LOSERS

WR Marlon Brown: After the Ravens didn't replace Torrey Smith in free agency, it looked as though Brown was going to regain his starting job. But the Ravens used the No. 26 overall pick on Perriman, and eight of the Ravens' past nine first-round picks have become starters as rookies.

Return game: Coach John Harbaugh wouldn't commit to a returner on his roster during the NFL owners meetings in late March, and assistant general manager Eric DeCosta said the Ravens wanted to find a returner in this year's draft. But Baltimore didn't use any of its nine picks on a prospect with any return experience. After cutting Jacoby Jones in the offseason, Jackson and Michael Campanaro remain the leading candidates to return kicks.

TE Phillip Supernaw: The Ravens were expected to take a tight end at some point in the draft. It was the drafting of two tight ends that really put Supernaw on the bubble. The Ravens could keep a fourth tight end to go along with Williams, Crockett Gillmore and Nick Boyle. But there would be no spot available if Dennis Pitta decides to return.

Join us today at 1 p.m. ET, 10 a.m. PT as NFL Nation TV returns from a one-week sabbatical for Spreecast 54 as we break down the four teams to receive a "Thumbs Down" for their drafts from the ESPN.com reporters who cover those respective teams.

Host Paul Gutierrez (49ers reporter) and co-hosts Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and Mike Wells (Indianapolis Colts reporter) will also be joined by three other NFL Nation reporters throughout the 60-minute show.

Mike Rodak (Buffalo Bills reporter) wrote, "Overall, the Bills' haul just wasn't overly inspiring," and he will break down his assessment to kick things off.

Adam Teicher (Kansas City Chiefs reporter) wrote, "Marcus Peters in the first round is a very risky pick because of his behavioral issues." But what else about Kansas City's draft left Teicher underwhelmed?

Plus, Terry Blount (Seattle Seahawks reporter) will explain what he meant when he wrote, "This one started badly when they made Michigan DE Frank Clark their top pick."

And Gutierrez will attempt to make sense of the Niners drafting for the future, as if they are coming off a fourth straight NFC title game appearance, rather than an 8-8 season and getting significantly weaker this offseason. Get your conspiracy theories ready.

Viewers are encouraged to log in and ask the panelists questions as well as contribute in the chat feature.

CINCINNATI -- Some of the more interesting comments Andrew Whitworth gave during an 11-minute, 28-second locker room session with reporters Monday were those that involved the Pro Bowl left tackle's level of intelligence.

He dropped them in subtly, coyly.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Whitworth
Thomas J. Russo/USA TODAY SportsBengals offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth didn't allow a sack in 2014.

They suggested he knew exactly what he was doing publicly berating the Cincinnati Bengals for meeting him with silence when he's asked for updates on his contract situation. The 10-year veteran, who turns 34 in December, is entering the final year of his current deal.

He's surprised that so far, he has had no conversations with management about being re-signed.

"[When a team says] we'd like you to prepare two young guys to be really good football players, we'd like you to be the leader of our football team, but we'd also like the best situation possible for us to talk to you when we want to, that's a one-way street, and not really top of the line in customer service," Whitworth said.

Here's what he also said, though, that suggested the statement above wasn't coming from out of the blue: "Don't think I'm an idiot," Whitworth said. "One thing you can always know is my decisions are calculated."

In this case, Whitworth's decision to say everything he did Monday stems from a desire to force management into working on a new deal. Based on his comments he appears to believe that with the right amount of pressure, the front office might finally cave and begin the discussions he felt should have started long ago. He wants a new deal before the season begins.

Ever the company man, Whitworth doesn't much speak out of turn unless something truly is bugging him. That's why the comments, coupled with the Bengals' selection last weekend of offensive tackles Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher, raised eyebrows.

Some of those raised eyebrows have been plastered the past four days on the faces of some of Whitworth's teammates. He said he's had his share of text messages and phone calls from them.

"There are some guys who are concerned," Whitworth said.

Even if there weren't other players who were concerned, Whitworth still knows that by insinuating they are, he can create more leverage for whenever the talks finally occur. Remember, he knows what he's doing.

"It's pretty easy to prove my contributions to this franchise over the last 10 years and you've got a guy fighting for his life?" Whitworth said. "I think I've earned more than that."

Whitworth arguably is coming off the best season of his career, a year in which he didn't allow a sack and gave up just 10 total pressures. Pro Football Focus rated his pass-block efficiency rating last year as the best among offensive tackles.

To the Bengals' credit, part of the problem stems from the fact they have 25 other players to consider re-signing between now and next spring. A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Reggie Nelson, George Iloka, Leon Hall and Adam Jones are some of the other veterans with expiring contracts.

Whitworth may have been kept out of the loop as it concerned drafting Ogbuehi and Fisher, but his bold proclamations Monday are an indication he wants to prevent being kept out of the Bengals' plans at offensive tackle for the foreseeable future.

Was what he said enough, though? That's a question only the Bengals' front office knows the answer to.

The Pittsburgh Steelers' three defensive backs selected in the 2015 NFL draft combined for 29 interceptions last season.

[+] EnlargeSenquez Golson
Nelson Chenault/USA TODAY SportsSenquez Golson isn't big but can bring big plays to the Steelers' secondary.

That these players find themselves in Pittsburgh is no accident.

Rebuilding the secondary has been a major offseason theme, but the process runs deeper than replacing veterans Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor and Brice McCain.

The Steelers need picks. No, not the eight picks used last week. They need turnovers, preferably from corners reading the eyes of a quarterback to microwave momentum for the offense. The Steelers have been one of the worst in the league at this, failing to crack the NFL's top 20 in interceptions in any of the past four seasons.

The message from the war room was clear: Go get whoever can go get the ball.

"We were just interested in tangible evidence," said Steelers coach Mike Tomlin about opting for proven football commodities instead of projections.

This helps explain why the Steelers weren't scared off by height issues. The Steelers coveted 5-foot-9 Ole Miss corner Senquez Golson, the second-round pick general manager Kevin Colbert was willing to trade up to get. That wasn't necessary. Golson was available at No. 56 overall. Tomlin believes Golson, fresh off a 10-interception season with the Rebels, has "as good of ball skills as anybody in this draft." The Steelers want him playing in space, where his vision and reaction show up despite the height.

Ohio State's Doran Grant, the 5-foot-10 corner selected in the fourth round, is known as a solid tackler and finished last year with five interceptions. Safety Gerod Holliman fell to Pittsburgh in the seventh round despite leading college football with 14 interceptions. He has a rep as a poor tackler, but the Steelers can work with that. After all, Holliman can make breaks on the ball before a quarterback throws it, Colbert said.

By taking three playmaking defensive backs, the Steelers have enough invested where they can inject life into the backfield even if one or two of these guys don't pan out.

It's hard to blame them for that when you look at the numbers.

From 2012 to 2014, the Steelers produced 31 interceptions, never ranking higher than 25th in the league in this category. The only NFL teams with worse production during that span are Oakland and Jacksonville with 29 apiece.

The last time the Steelers recorded more than 11 interceptions in a season was 2010, when picking off 21 passes contributed to a 12-4 regular-season record and a Super Bowl appearance. Four seasons after that performance, it's still a bit shocking a franchise with such a defensive reputation has struggled in this area. Taylor and Polamalu were never volume ball hawks, combining for 46 interceptions in 24 years.

The Steelers wanted to use six of their eight picks on defensive players, which worked out according to plan last week, also adding depth in the front seven and a potential star in outside linebacker Bud Dupree.

If the Steelers have their way, those six picks will translate to at least six additional turnovers in 2015.

"Very good instinct football players," said Tomlin about his new defensive backs. "See a lot, capable of anticipating and taking the calculated risks associated with the position."

Head coach Mike Pettine seemed to get a tad angry when pushed after the NFL draft about the Cleveland Browns leaving their quarterback situation unchanged.

The Browns made many good, sound, logical picks, selecting players with a lot of talent. The team either buttressed the existing talent on the roster, or brought in a player with skills different than the ones their current players have.

There is no arguing that this was a sound draft.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Mariota
AP Images/Ryan KangThe Browns didn't trade for Marcus Mariota, didn't select a QB in the later rounds and are still searching for their long-term answer at the position.

But there is also no arguing that the team’s quarterback group remains a huge question mark, and among the weakest in the league.

This isn’t to say that Josh McCown can’t hold the fort, that Johnny Manziel can’t emerge and provide one of the greatest get-it-right/turnaround stories in recent memory, or that Thad Lewis or Connor Shaw can't surprise.

It can happen.

But to believe it with absolute certainty ... well that’s a bit much.

Pettine though, said the Brown will not "overprioritize the quarterback position."

"We go 11 against 11," he said. "We’re not just trotting quarterbacks out there at the 50-yard line and they’re thumb wrestling. To me, there are a lot of different ways to win football games and you just don’t force a situation. Do we look at it and say, 'OK, if we perceive our quarterback room is not the best in the division, what does that mean? Do we call the league and cancel games?'"

His point has merit, of course. He has earned the benefit of the doubt with his candor. He could simply be saying: Look fellas, the guys in this draft just were not worth the investment. That’s fair.

But until the guy is on the roster, the search doesn't stop.

Finding 'the guy' is difficult, and they are not, as Pettine said in March, readily available at the local market. Reaching for one can be a mistake.

But teams are judged on what they do, and their results. In two years under Ray Farmer and Pettine, the Browns drafted Manziel after working out 14 quarterbacks, then jettisoned Brian Hoyer in lieu of McCown, who was 1-10 last season and has never been a full-time starter in his 12-year career.

The Browns said they never made an offer to trade up for Marcus Mariota, and they rolled their eyes at the report they tried to trade up in the fourth round for Bryce Petty.

They would have taken Mariota at 12, but they didn’t think it was worth moving up. They obviously didn’t think much of the second-tier quarterbacks.

So they decided not to take one.

It’s their right, not only as Americans but as people guiding a team. The science of finding a guy is inexact. Tom Brady was a sixth-round pick, Petty could flame out in New York.

But to say they will not "overprioritize" the position ... well ... how can you not?

It’s been proven over and over, in Cleveland and elsewhere, that teams that have that approach usually lose. Teams that say the quarterback is a piece of the puzzle, they lose.

Teams that have the standout don’t always win, but they increase the odds a heck of a lot faster than the teams that don’t. Especially in this age of offense.

There are any number of ways to prove the point.

Last season, eight of the top 12 in Total Quarterback Rating went to the playoffs. Of the four who didn’t, Drew Brees and Eli Manning have won Super Bowls, and Matt Ryan and Philip Rivers have eight playoff appearances between them.

When it comes to total defense, six of the top 12 defenses did not make the playoffs. Fifty percent of the top defenses watched the playoffs. And the top-ranked defense in the league, Seattle, lost the Super Bowl to the top quarterback.

Yes, it took a late interception to win for New England, but it took a fluke catch by Seattle to be in position to win. The top quarterback chopped up the top defense in the fourth quarter, going 13-for-15 with two touchdowns.

The point: A team with a top defense can win. Absolutely it can win. But to win a team needs a top quarterback.

As Ernie Accorsi, the man who drafted Bernie Kosar and John Elway (his owner traded him from Baltimore) and traded for Eli Manning, told Tony Grossi of ESPN-Cleveland: "You can win with an average quarterback, yeah. But you better have the '85 Bears defense or the 2000 Ravens defense. You have to have some other exceptions and usually it lasts one year."

Accorsi was asked to be involved with the interviewing of new coaches in Chicago. When a candidate told him the quarterback wasn’t important, that a team could build around him and win, Accorsi pointedly said: "That’s why we’re interviewing you, why the job’s open. That’s the job. You have to find him."

It is the job of the Browns to find one. It’s the reason Mike Holmgren said he believed in always drafting a quarterback no matter what, the reason Tim Couch was taken first overall in 1999, the reason the Browns drafted guys like Brady Quinn and Brandon Weeden. And it’s the reason many analysts said if the Browns felt Mariota was their guy, they absolutely had to trade up and get him.

The position can’t be prioritized enough.

Like it or not, it remains a top Browns priority.

Buck Allen's celebration with his little brother on Saturday went beyond getting drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the fourth round. It was a moment for the USC running back to reflect on a journey filled with challenges, tragedy and heartbreak.

"I know when it all calms down later on, I’m going to sit [by] myself, and I just know I’m going to tear up and cry and think about all the stuff me and my family went through to get to this point," Allen said. "It’s a blessing.”

[+] EnlargeBuck Allen
AP Photo/David J. PhillipBuck Allen was the only player in the country to record 13 games of at least 100 yards from scrimmage last season.

To reach the NFL, Allen had to overcome grueling hardships while growing up. Raised by his grandmother, Allen lost his father figure at the age of 12 when his older brother went to prison on attempted murder charges. When he reached high school, he went to live with Mickey and Alice Cullen, assistants at the local Boys and Girls Club. Alice passed away from breast cancer in 2009.

To honor her, Allen writes "Alice" in black marker on tape over his left wrist. After he scores a touchdown, he kisses his wrist and points to the sky.

"It’s a whole lot of emotions," Allen said. "When I first started out, I never had a celebration at all. But [it is about] pretty much letting it all out, and you have so much built inside."

The Ravens selected Allen with the No. 125 overall pick after he led USC in rushing the past two seasons and finished third on the team in receptions last season. In 2014, he ran for 1,489 yards and 11 touchdowns and caught 41 passes for 458 yards.

Even though Allen isn't expected to make the same immediate impact as running backs Melvin Gordon or Todd Gurley, who were selected in the first round, he has the potential to develop into an every-down back. He was the only player in the country to record 13 games of at least 100 yards from scrimmage.

"He has deceptive speed," director of college scouting Joe Hortiz said. "When you watch him, you don’t realize he’s gaining so much ground because he’s kind of a smooth runner. He’s a guy we really liked as a collective group, and he’s going to come in and battle for reps and some time with the guys that are already here."

Allen envisions himself being a backup "for a while" before taking more of the workload. With his ability to catch the ball, Allen could carve out a niche as a third-down back right away.

Running backs are an important part of new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman's passing attack. In his two seasons with the Bears, running backs caught 190 passes.

"Buck was our top guy coming into [Day 3 of the draft]," Trestman said. "We really like Buck. We like his athleticism. We like his size. He’s very good inside and outside. He can catch the football. He’s a good blocker. We were very excited to have the opportunity to get Buck when we did."

As Allen prepares to take the next step in his career, he hasn't forgotten about his past, which has been defined by his perseverance. In a recent Los Angeles Times feature, Allen said he remains in contact with his grandmother and Mickey Cullen, whom he "loves as a father." He has also written his older brother in prison.

Allen believes everything he has endured has helped him get to this point in his life.

"I had to fight to get what I want. Stuff was never handed to me," Allen said. "Even growing up as a kid -- even living with my grandmother -- it was never handed to me as a kid. You always had to fight. You always had to figure out a way. Never give up on yourself. Believe in yourself."

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CINCINNATI -- Due to the latest collective bargaining agreement, the NFL for the past five years has had a set rookie wage scale that changes slightly each year based in part on changes to the salary cap.

The rookie wage scale makes it easier for teams such as the Cincinnati Bengals than before. Now, they aren't able to pay out the exorbitant first contracts that can sometimes hurt a team if a first-round player doesn't end up working out. In addition to that early-career relief teams get on rookie contracts, they also have an idea going into the draft about what they will be paying each of their draft picks. Naturally, the wage scale decreases as the draft picks get higher.

For instance, Jameis Winston, the No. 1 pick in the draft, signed Saturday for the four-year, $25.35 million amount he was projected to make. He also signed for the $16.7 million projected signing bonus, confirming what cap experts believed as far as the 15 percent increase in signing bonus money per draft-pick contract from last year. Winston will count $6.3 million against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' cap per season.

By comparison, the 256th and final pick in the draft, former Louisville tight end Gerald Christian, is projected to count $583,195 against the Arizona Cardinals' cap per year for the next four seasons, according to a league source.

None of the Bengals' draft picks have signed yet, but what are their salaries expected to be? Take a look at the numbers in the chart, which also come from a league source:

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