AFC North: Draft Review

Onwards and upwards we go with reviewing the draft.  AFC North up next including a look at what everyone’s favourite underdog team, the Cleveland Browns did with their obscene amount of picks!

Baltimore Ravens

Round 1: (No. 25 overall) Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina; (32) Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville.

Round 3: (83) Orlando Brown, T, Oklahoma; (86) Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma.

Round 4: (118) Anthony Averett, CB, Alabama; (122) Kenny Young, LB, UCLA; (132) Jaleel Scott, WR, New Mexico State.

Round 5: (162) Jordan Lasley, WR, UCLA.

Round 6: (190) DeShon Elliott, S, Texas; (212) Greg Senat, T, Wagner; (215) Bradley Bozeman, C, Alabama.

Round 7: (238) Zach Sieler, DE, Ferris State.

2018 marked Ozzie Newsome’s final draft for the Raven’s before signing off at the end of the year.  And what a draft it was!  Newsome moved back twice in the first round and gained valuable picks for later in the draft.  He then picked up Hayden Hurst who many considered the best tight end in the draft.  He doubled down on the position with receiving tight end Mark Andrews who is more of a big bodied receiver than anything else. Flacco had his best performances when he had two capable tight ends and this is seemingly the recipe to get back him back to his best.

If Flacco doesn’t improve, then there’s the next generation QB for the Ravens to consider.  Newsome traded back into the end of the first round to grab Lamar Jackson, gaining that invaluable fifth year option year on a player many expected the Ravens to selection at 16.  His playing time in his first season remains to be seen, it’s more likely to be based on Flacco’s fitness more than his form as I believe after a number of years of service and a Super Bowl win, he’ll be given the benefit of the doubt.

Orlando Brown’s combine performance led to his drop into the 3rd round but his tape is good and he could be a stalwart at tackle for many years.  Lasley was Josh Rosen’s go to man at UCLA and if he sharpens up on some character issues he could be a valuable weapon for Baltimore.  Bradley Bozeman shows considerable potential as a raw prospect and has the work ethic to make it into the final squad should the coaching be good enough.

Cincinnati Bengals

Round 1: (No. 21 overall) Billy Price, C, Ohio State.

Round 2: (54) Jessie Bates, S, Wake Forest.

Round 3: (77) Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State; (78) Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas.

Round 4: (112) Mark Walton, RB, Miami.

Round 5: (151) Davontae Harris, CB, Illinois State; (158) Andrew Brown, DT, Virginia; (170) Darius Phillips, CB, Western Michigan.

Round 7: (249) Logan Woodside, QN, Toledo; (252) Rod Taylor, G, Mississippi; (253) Auden Tate, WR, Florida State.

Another AFC North team who had a good draft.  The first four picks in the Bengals draft haul show considerable potential.  There were a good number of pundits that predicted Billy Price would drop out of the first round following his pectoral injury but reports show it’s healing well and he has first round talent so is a good pick.  He also has the versatility to play at guard or centre at an NFL level and will combine well with new tackle Cordy Glenn who was acquired from the Bills.  This will form the basis of a new improved run game in 2018 with Joe Mixon given more time and space to make yards.

Jessie Bates will become a starting safety quickly and has great footballing intelligence.  Furthering the defence, the Bengals got massive value in picking Hubbard and Jefferson in the 3rd round.  Both could have gone higher, some even linking Hubbard to first round picks.  Walton will provide a valuable change of pace runner for Mixon as and when he needs to come out of the game.

With the departure of AJ McCarron, the Bengals also filled the backup QB role with the selection of Woodside in the 7th round – let’s just hope Dalton stays fit!

Cleveland Browns

Round 1: (No. 1 overall) Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma; (4) Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State.

Round 2: (33) Austin Corbett, G, Nevada; (35) Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia.

Round 3: (67) Chad Thomas, DE, Miami.

Round 4: (105) Antonio Callaway, WR, Florida.

Round 5: (150) Genard Avery, LB, Memphis.

Round 6: (175) Damion Ratley, WR, Texas A&M; (188) Simeon Thomas, DB, Louisiana-Lafayette.

Cleveland provided the first shock of the draft by selecting Baker Mayfield at number one.  There had been speculation in the last few days before the draft but honestly, I thought it was a smokescreen!  I don’t hate the pick, Mayfield is a proven winner and will bring a bit of celebrity and attitude to Cleveland.  He’s not Manziel though, he’s got bags more talent than Jonny Football had and is, by all accounts, a harder worker.

At four, many expected Bradley Chubb to be the pick but the Browns had a bigger need at cornerback and they got the best one in the draft so I applaud that move.  Ward looks the real deal at the cornerback position and will provide good coverage to allow the Browns pass rush more time to get to the opposing QB.

There may have been better offensive lineman than Corbett available at the top of the second round but I still like this pick with the ability to further strengthen the offensive line.  Nick Chubb will join what is now looking like a strong backfield alongside Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson.

The pick I don’t like, really don’t like is in the fourth where they took Antonio Callaway.  Take away the character issues and Calloway is probably the best receiver in the draft – but there are just so many character issues.  I hope this doesn’t derail the whole rebuilding effort in Cleveland and that Dorsey can do with Calloway what he did with another troubled receiver coming out of the draft, Tyreek Hill.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Round 1: (No. 28 overall) Terrell Edmunds, S, Virginia Tech.

Round 2: (60) James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State.

Round 3: (76) Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State; (92) Chuks Okorafor, T, Western Michigan.

Round 5: (148) Marcus Allen, S, Penn State; (165) Jaylen Samuels, RB, N.C. State.

Round 7: (246) Joshua Frazier, DT, Alabama.

It was nearly a clean sweep of AFC North teams having good drafts, but I’m not a fan of what Pittsburgh did.  Whilst there was a need at safety, Terrell Edmunds had a day two grade on him, there were better options available.

Picking Washington is the high point for me, he had a great senior bowl game and joins a solid receiver corps alongside Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster.  The massive let down for me on this draft was the lack of an insider linebacker to fill the massive Ryan Shazier shaped hole.  We all hope that Shazier comes back but let’s be real here – it’s not a short or even medium-term prospect.

Despite the reservations from big Ben, picking Mason Rudolph makes sense for the Steelers – especially when you consider Ben’s rumblings about retirement over the last few years.  He can’t expect the Steelers to not prepare for the future!  With the strengthening of other AFC North teams I feel like the division next year could be very competitive.

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