The AFC North seems to be going through a changing of the guard. For years it was the Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger at the helm and the Ravens with Joe Flacco, but are close to the end. The Steelers lost in the divisional round of the playoffs and no other team in the division made it to the playoffs, a rare occurrence when considering recent history.
What is not a rare occurrence is the Browns in a total rebuild after becoming just the second team in NFL history to go winless over a season. To put a positive spin on it, maybe that was rock bottom? Now there’s only progress to be had in Cleveland and with new leadership in the form of GM John Dorsey, that progress could come sooner than later as the last administration left him a boatload of picks and a ton of cap space.
As for the Bengals, after an early flash with Andy Dalton and AJ Green, the team has cooled and is in dire need to rejuvenate their playoff hopes. Some are calling for the replacement of Dalton, which is overreaction, but the team does need to provide a better supporting cast. How did they do? Lets give it a look…
Baltimore Ravens: B+
1.) Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
1.) Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
3.) Orlando Brown Jr, OT, Oklahoma
3.) Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma
4.) Anthony Averett, CB, Alabama
4.) Kenny Young, LB, UCLA
4.) Jaleel Scott, WR, New Mexico St.
5.) Jordan Lasley, WR, UCLA
6.) Daeshon Elliott, S, Texas
6.) Greg Senat, OT, Wagner
6.) Bradley Bozeman, C, Alabama
7.) Zach Sieler, DE, Ferris St.
It’s pretty clear what GM Ozzie Newsom’s gameplan was in his final draft at the helm of the Ravens front office. The offense was clearly the Ravens biggest problem last year and they went all in to fix it. Drafting Jackson spells the end for Joe Flacco. Trading up to take him with the final pick of the opening night was smart. That gives the Ravens an option year with the former Heisman Trophy winner. Hurst and Andrews are two experienced and valuable targets underneath. Hurst started off as a baseball prospect, before flaming out and walked on for the Gamecocks. He’s an older prospect, but has the athleticism to excel. The Brown pick was not only a good fit and addressed a need, but Brown will also be playing for the same team his father did. He needs to get stronger. Of the defensive picks, but offer depth in areas of need. Averett, could turn into a starter on the outside in the future. Elliott is quality depth addition to the safety, as are Senat and Bozeman to the offensive line.
Cincinnati Bengals: A-
1.) Billy Price, C, Ohio St.
2.) Jessie Bates, S, Wake Forrest
3.) Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio St.
3.) Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
4.) Mark Walton, RB, Miami
5.) Davontae Harris, CB, Illinois St.
5.) Andrew Brown, DT, Virginia
5.) Darius Phillips, CB, Western Michigan
7.) Logan Woodside, QB, Toledo
7.) Rod Taylor, OG, Ole Miss
7.) Auden Tate, WR, Florida St.
The Bengals have brought in an absolutely stellar draft class. Price, will be a Day One starter. He injured his pec during the combine, but he’ll be back by the time the season starts. The Bengals clearly saw a weak secondary developing and moved fast to address it, bringing in three players to provide some depth. Bates, is a rangy center fielder. He gives the Bengals the ability to develop three safety sets, a popular trend spreading around the league. Jefferson, fills a colossal need and is a tremendous fit. He is a heat seeking missile, who should play on the outside. Walton, is an intriguing addition. He ran for over 1,000 yards in ’16, but failed to follow up last season due to injury. Woodside, is a quality developmental draft pick. Tate, brings needed depth to the position. He can be a terror in the red zone.
Cleveland Browns: B
1.) Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
1.) Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio St.
2.) Austin Corbett, OT, Nevada
2.) Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
3.) Chad Thomas, DE, Miami
4.) Antonio Callaway, WR, Florida
5.) Genard Avery, LB, Memphis
6.) Damion Ratley, WR, Texas A&M
6.) Simeon Thomas, DB, Louisianna-Lafayett
The Browns kicked off the draft with the selection of Mayfield. Everybody has a different opinion on Mayfield, but when you just look at the tape, it’s simple. He’s a winner. A two time walk-on at Texas Tech and Oklahoma, he may be undersized, but he has the ability and the drive to succeed. Fingers crossed for the Dawg Pound. They’re a great fan base, who don’t deserve the trash heap they’ve had to deal with since 1999. Ward, was a bit of a surprise at No. 4 due to his short stature, but the talent is there. He had 24 passes broken up over the past two seasons. Corbett, will be worth watching. He’s capable of playing tackle and guard. Maybe he develops at tackle behind Chris Hubbard and takes over down the line. Callaway, is a classic John Dorsey pick. Highly talented, highly problematic off the field. Chubb, may be the most surprising pick, only because the team already has Duke Johnson and gave a big free agency deal to oft-injured Carlos Hyde. As a player, Chubb is an exceptional talent and could very well wrestle the starting spot for himself as a rookie.
Pittsburgh Steelers: B
1.) Terrell Edmunds, S, Virginia Tech
2.) James Washington, WR, Oklahoma St.
3.) Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma St.
3.) Chuks Okorafor, OT, Western Michigan
5.) Marcus Allen, S, Penn St.
5.) Jaylen Samuels, FB, NC State
7.) Joshua Frazier, DT, Alabama
Edmunds was a surprise to some coming off the board in Round 1, but many within the NFL saw this as a possibility. He has quality ball skills, picking off six passes and breaking up seven more over the past two seasons. Allen, the other safety, is someone who can play in the box as well as provide the expected coverage duties. It will be interesting if the Steelers start running three safety sets with Sean Davis or move the veteran to cornerback. The Oklahoma State pair of Washington and Rudolph, will be worth watching. The team traded Martavis Bryant to Oakland, thus opening a spot in the slot – a place Washington can excel. The Steelers have been looking for Ben Roethlisberger’s heir for a few years now. Maybe Rudolph is finally it. Samuels, is an intriguing prospect. He played as a tight end, receiver, running back, and full back in college. Pittsburgh likes their H-Backs. He’ll be a fun weapon to use and try to create mismatches. Okorafor is raw, but has starter upside.