GRADING THE DRAFT: AFC NORTH

 

Now that the dust is settling and the "priority" is being take out of priority free agents, I want to reflect back on each teams' draft class and share initial thoughts. The number in the parentheses next to the player names is where they were selected vs. where they were on my final big board; a positive number means value, negative number means reach. I added the total numbers up for a total grade for each team, and it means absolutely nothing besides letting me know how I off I was in my evaluation for each players, so take it for what it's worth.

 

While this article focuses on the AFC South, you can click on a different division below.

 

AFC West | AFC South | AFC North | AFC East || NFC West | NFC South | NFC North | NFC East

 

BALTIMORE RAVENS - A (-332)

TE Hayden Hurst (-15)

QB Lamar Jackson (+22)

OT Orlando Brown Jr. (+47)

TE Mark Andrews (+29)

CB Anthony Averett (-15)

LB Kenny Young (-144)

WR Jaleel Scott (-62)

WR Jordan Lasley (-45)

FS Deshon Elliott (+96)

OT Greg Senat (-7)

C Bradley Bozeman (+25)

DE Zach Sieler (-263)

 

Notable UDFAs: RB Gus Johnson, WR Andre Levrone, WR Janarion Grant, TE Nick Keizer, DT Christian LaCouture, DT Du'Vonta Lampkin, CB Darious Williams

 

Talk about a jolt of energy. This draft is not only exciting for Ravens fans, but it gives them something to look forward to knowing that an offense that has gotten extremely stale the last two seasons is about to get a major overhaul. But with any big building project comes the inevitable "pardon our dust" construction that is going to have to come with developing Lamar Jackson. Make no mistake about it, though - the AFC North is going to be much more exciting with 3 new future QBs in the division. Outside of Jackson, I didn't love the Hurst pick because I thought he was overrated, and I wouldn't be surprised if Mark Andrews ends up the more productive pro down the road. I absolutely loved the legacy pick of Orlando Brown Jr. and I'm confident he will be a long term fixture at right tackle for a long time. Anthony Averett gives them some terrific CB depth and Kenny Young could vie for the starting inside linebacker spot next to CJ Mosley. At receiver, Jaleel Scott gives them a red zone threat at the X spot and Jordan Lasley will likely fight with Breshad Perriman (fall from grace, huh?) for the final WR spot on the roster. My favorite pick was Deshon Elliott, who I had a big grade on and will be the heir apparent to Eric Weddle. They addressed depth at offensive tackle with Greg Senat and Bradley Bozeman very likely will end up being the starting center this season. Zach Sieler, although lower on my board, is a high-upside project who likely ends up on the practice squad. Out of the UDFAs, I am putting money down right now that Darious Williams makes this team. He's very underrated and was one of the best CBs that I evaluated this season. I loved it. A.

 

CLEVELAND BROWNS - B (-893)

QB Baker Mayfield (-3)

CB Denzel Ward (-4)

OT Austin Corbett (-33)

RB Nick Chubb (-15)

DE Chad Thomas (-78)

WR Antonio Callaway (-109)

LB Genard Avery (-17)

WR Damion Ratley (-367)

CB Simeon Thomas (-267)

 

Notable UDFAs: WR Da'mari Scott, OT Desmond Harrison, DT Trenton Thompson, DT Zay Henderson, LB DJ Calhoun, SS Evan Berry

 

The Browns made the right choice selecting Baker Mayfield over the other QBs. It's not because of Mayfield's on-field play, but rather his efficacy that will transform the culture, which is the biggest issue with the Browns organization. His charisma and enthusiasm will permeate throughout the entire building, and he will turn the franchise around. Many people poo-poo the Denzel Ward pick, but I thought it was the right choice over Bradley Chubb. The Browns need cover guys much more than they need pass rushers and if they can give Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah another half second, they are going to get home much more in 2018. I get that Austin Corbett played left tackle at Nevada, but there's debate where his best spot is at the next level, which you shouldn't have for a guy you are basically spending a first round pick on. Also, it's never good to be the guy after the guy, and no matter how he plays as a rookie, he will be unfairly compared to Joe Thomas, which is unfair. Nick Chubb is a terrific back and will factor in nicely in the rotation with Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson, both of which get nicked up often. Chad Thomas is a productive left end but you have to think Cleveland won't be a great landing spot for his aspiring music career. After picking Tyreek Hill in Kansas City, you could see John Dorsey taking Antonio Callaway from a mile away. Putting him in an environment with Josh Gordon, who has turned has life around after early immaturity issues, should be a good match and Gordon should be a good mentor for Callaway. Genard Avery gives the team some insurance if Jamie Collins doesn't pick up his play in 2018, and Damion Ratley and Simeon Thomas will be competing for a roster spot. Out of the undrafted guys, Trenton Thompson is the only player I would wager making the team. Overall, I give this draft a B as it stands, and if Baker Mayfield provides the culture shock that I'm anticipating, nothing else matters.

 

CINCINNATI BENGALS - A- (+12)

C Billy Price (-10)

FS Jessie Bates III (+5)

DE Sam Hubbard (+23)

LB Malik Jefferson (+39)

RB Mark Walton (-30)

CB Davontae Harris (-158)

DT Andrew Brown (+80)

CB Darius Phillips (+71)

QB Logan Woodside (-103)

OG Roderick Taylor (-31)

WR Auden Tate (+126)

 

Notable UDFAs: QB Quinton Flowers, RB Ray Lawry, WR Adonis Jennings, DE Gaelin Elmore, LB Chris Worley, LB Junior Joseph, SS Trayvon Henderson

 

Great draft! The Bengals finally shore up the center position, which has been a disgrace for as long as I can remember. Jessie Bates is a true center-fielder and provides a change of philosophy from the incumbent George Iloka/Shawn Williams duo, who both lacked true range. Sam Hubbard and Malik Jefferson were both steals in the third round and I wouldn't be surprised if Malik Jefferson earns a starting position playing Vontaze Burfict's spot while he serves his four game suspension. If Jefferson performs well, don't be surprised if Teryl Austin ships Burfict to his old DC Paul Gunether in Oakland and starts fresh with Jefferson. Mark Walton is a terrific third down back who will fill in for Bernard after 2018. Davontae Harris was a bit of a reach in my opinion, but snagging Darius Phillips later on atoned for it, and Philips will fill Adam Jones role as a return specialist. Andrew Brown should see some more success rushing as a three-technique in the Bengals scheme behind Geno Atkins and I fully expect Logan Woodside to win the third QB job over Matt Barkley. Roderick Taylor is an underrated prospect who could win the vacant right guard spot next to Price and finally, Auden Tate may have to convert to a move TE to make the Bengals final roster and prove his mettle in the red zone. The Bengals added some intriguing pieces in free agency, but the only player I see with a chance of challenging for a roster spot is Hawaii SS Trayvon Henderson. Ultimately, the Bengals found great value in most of the picks, and the fact that they finished with a positive value attribution is quite literally a positive sign.

 

PITTSBURGH STEELERS - B- (+36)

SS Terrell Edmunds (-95)

WR James Washington (+15)

QB Mason Rudolph (+35)

OT Chuks Okorafor (+19)

FS Marcus Allen (+11)

RB Jaylen Samuels (+86)

DT Joshua Frazier (-35)

 

Notable UDFAs: RB Jarvion Franklin, WR Quadree Henderson, C Patrick Morris, DT Greg Gilmore, LB Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, LB Matthew Thomas, CB Trey Johnson

 

Selecting Terrell Edmunds over players like Justin Reid and Jessie Bates III gives the Steelers a B-ceiling right off the bat. Edmunds, who was my 123rd rated player, was taken way too high and it didn't even sound like Mike Tomlin had a clear plan as to whether he will play strong or free safety, spots currently occupied by Sean Davis and Morgan Burnett. I am a big fan of  the James Washington pick as long as they keep him as a Z receiver in 3 WR sets and allow Antonio Brown to eat from the slot, because Washington lacks the wiggle and courage over the middle of the field to be an NFL slot receiver. I was a lot higher on Mason Rudolph than most pundits and Pittsburgh is an outstanding landing spot for him to sit and soak up how to be a franchise QB behind Ben Roethlisberger for a year or two. "Chuks", who had an underwhelming 2017, slides in as the team's swing tackle and Marcus Allen gives them yet another depth piece at safety. A pick that I really loved for this team is Jaylen Samuels, who has the traits to eventually replace Le'Veon Bell down the road due to his ability to catch the football out of the backfield. Joshua Frazier should challenge Daniel McCullers for the back up nose tackle spot. They also added a few players in free agency who stand a strong chance of making the squad, chiefly Quadree Henderson to take Antonio Brown off of return duties and Matthew Thomas, who could even challenge for a starting spot since they failed to address replacing Ryan Shazier. To recap, reaching for a first round pick and then doubling down on the safety position to not address the team's biggest need at ILB gives them a B-.

 

 

 

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