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State of AFC North: Browns turn heads; Ravens leave Flacco high and dry; Steelers hard to peg

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The Browns finally did something productive with their arsenal of draft picks. The Steelers drafted polarizing players, making it hard to truly judge their draft. The Ravens spent a lot of time adding to the defense, but very few picks help their quarterback.

NFL: Cleveland Browns-Press Conference Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 NFL Draft is over, and it is time to take a look at how the rest of the AFC North fared. The Ravens went defense early and often, but that could lead to Joe Flacco struggling next season. The Browns actually had a good draft. I know, it’s weird. The Steelers draft has some real question marks throughout.

Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore Ravens 2017 Draft Picks

RD(PK) PLAYER POS SCHOOL
RD(PK) PLAYER POS SCHOOL
1(16) Marlon Humphrey CB Alabama
2(15) Tyus Bowser OLB Houston
3(10) Chris Wormley DT Michigan
3(14) Tim Williams OLB Alabama
4(16) Nico Siragusa OG San Diego State
5(15) Jermaine Eluemunor OT Texas A&M
6(2) Chuck Clark S Virginia Tech

Humphrey surprised by first round call

The first round of the draft was full of shocks and surprises. Marlon Humphrey was as shocked as the rest of us at the strange run on quarterbacks, which pushed talented players like him down the board.

"After I saw Deshaun Watson be the third quarterback, it really surprised me, so it kind of threw off the way I thought the draft would go,” Humphrey said via AL.com. “So I didn't know where I would be picked or if I would be picked. So when Baltimore called me, that's why I was so surprised also."

The Ravens did call though as they chose Humphrey even with their choice of offensive linemen still on the board. The Ravens chose to add a corner who fits their physical profile (and also someone who can help attempt to chase down John Ross, the Bengals’ Round 1 selection. The major point the Ravens made after the pick was how physical Humphrey is. They said it countless times.

Still, did the Ravens need to spend a first round pick on a guy like Humphrey who isn’t likely to start with Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr and Tavon Young on the roster? The only reasonable explanation is that he is insurance for an injury prone Smith who has had plenty of trouble staying healthy during his career. The Ravens did stick to the story that he was their best available player at the time, which is questionable. Maybe the Ravens see something more that made him so valuable. Needless to say, it is hard for us as Bengals fans to call out another team for drafting a corner in the first round.

Ravens go defense early and often

It was honestly a little surprising how many defensive players were chosen by the Ravens. Going into the draft, we knew they needed to add a few pass rushers since Terrell Suggs can’t play forever, and they drafted two to add some depth to the position since they also cut Elvis Dumervil this offseason. They got some good value adding Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams during the second night of the draft.

They also had a huge need along the offensive line. It’s no secret the Ravens offensive line is hurting after losing two major pieces during the last two offseasons. They waited until the third day to address this need though. To be fair, this was a very weak offensive line class, but they had really good options sitting there at 16 in the first round, who could’ve had an impact.

They also could’ve added a new receiver to help out Flacco after a rough 2016 season. Flacco’s go-to receiver, Steve Smith Sr., retired this offseason. The Ravens elected not to draft a single receiver though, signaling they are comfortable rolling with Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman as their main receiving threats.

In all fairness, the defensive players they took are fantastic, but the Ravens waited a little too long to decide to protect their biggest investment from getting hit constantly, and they failed to add more weapons for him as well. It could turn out to be a long year for Flacco.

Cleveland Browns

Cleveland Browns 2017 Draft Picks

RD(PK) PLAYER POS SCHOOL
RD(PK) PLAYER POS SCHOOL
1(1) Myles Garrett DE Texas A&M
1(25) Jabrill Peppers S Michigan
1(29) David Njoku TE Miami (FL)
2(20) DeShone Kizer QB Notre Dame
3(1) Larry Ogunjobi DT Charlotte
4(20) Howard Wilson CB Houston
5(16) Roderick Johnson OT Florida State
6(1) Caleb Brantley DT Florida
7(6) Zane Gonzalez PK Arizona State
7(34) Matthew Dayes RB North Carolina State

Browns turning heads with their draft

The Browns are slowly changing their infamy with the draft. The last regime was historically bad at drafting. They only have two first round picks from that regime left on the team, Danny Shelton and Cameron Erving. From 2011 to 2014 the Browns had six first round picks who have failed to stick in Cleveland. That regime was great at acquiring picks, but they were awful at turning those picks into difference makers. This new group has had two drafts so far, and they’ve done so much already to give fans in Cleveland hope that things may finally be changing.

First of all, they didn’t screw up the first overall pick. They took easily the best player in the draft in Myles Garrett who will be wreaking havoc on the NFL for years to come. Andy Dalton should be scared.

They traded out of the 12th spot back to 25 to get Houston’s first round pick next season, and they already own their second round pick as well after the Brock Osweiler trade. The Browns ended up taking Jabril Peppers, who I personally wasn’t a fan of as a prospect. He is a bit of risk as far as translating his talent to success in the NFL. He didn’t play too much safety in college, which is what he will be in the NFL, but he does have an incredible amount of athleticism to work with.

The Browns weren’t finished in the first round as they traded back up to take the second best tight end in the draft, David Njoku. He adds an athleticism and playmaking ability the Browns haven’t had outside of Gary Barnidge’s weird 2015 season. And, adding Njoku actually made them decide to part ways with Barnidge just hours later.

They also added DeShone Kizer in the second round, which is an incredible value. It will be exciting to see what Hue Jackson will be able to do with the talent and drive Kizer possesses.

The rest of the draft was spent getting incredible value for players, and it really confirmed the idea the Browns may finally be headed in the right direction.

Browns done with Barnidge

As mentioned above, the Browns drafted Njoku late Thursday night. Barnidge decided to be a good teammate and welcome the rookie.

It was a respectable move that didn’t age well. Barnidge was notified the next day that he would be released. Which led to him tweeting this...

It is rough to watch that unfold, but that is the business of football. Barnidge had a breakout season two years ago, but last season he regressed quite a bit. The NFL is a what have you done for me lately league, and the Browns made it clear they weren’t banking on a 31-year0old (32 by the time the season starts) recapturing the magic he had during the 2015 season.

Cleveland already loaded for 2018 draft

One thing Cleveland accomplished this offseason was capitalizing on the draft capital they acquired last year. They came into the 2017 draft with 11 picks and wound up selecting 10 players after some wheeling and dealing. They did the same thing this offseason and during the draft, too, and loaded up for next year’s draft as well.

It started with the Osweiler trade where Houston sent over the quarterback, his ridiculous contract and a second round pick for the Browns. They add that pick to the second round pick they got in the Carson Wentz deal in 2016, as well as their own pick for three second round picks total coming in 2018. Then, when Houston wanted to move up to 12 from 25, the Browns managed to get their first round pick next season as well. That gives them five picks in the first two rounds in 2018. They also have an extra fourth round pick from the Andy Lee trade, and a sixth rounder from the Steelers for Justin Gilbert.

Right now, the Browns have 12 picks for next year’s draft. This is before they probably make some more deals when cuts start coming around and before the trade deadline. The Browns have shown they can trade with the best of them.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers 2017 Draft Picks

RD(PK) PLAYER POS SCHOOL
RD(PK) PLAYER POS SCHOOL
1(30) T.J. Watt OLB Wisconsin
2(30) JuJu Smith-Schuster WR USC
3(30) Cam Sutton CB Tennessee
3(41) James Conner RB Pittsburgh
4(29) Joshua Dobbs QB Tennessee
5(30) Brian Allen CB Utah
6(30) Colin Holba LS Louisville
7(30) Keion Adams DE Western Michigan

Steelers have a very weird draft

It is really hard to judge this draft. Your opinion on your Steelers’ draft class probably depends on if you’re a fan of the team, or not. It is easy to criticize their draft, but it is just as easy to make a case for why the Steelers picked who they did.

It started in the first round when they selected T.J. Watt to add some pressure to a defense that is desperate for it. Watt is the little brother of J.J. Watt, so clearly talent and having two letters for a name runs in the family. The knock on Watt is he only started one season in college. It could take him some time to grasp Pittsburgh’s complicated defense. It may have also been a slight reach considering a lot of draft analysts considered him a second round pick. If you want a guy, sometimes it is best to just take him when you can as there was no chance for him to fall deep into the second round.

The Steelers also Selected JuJu Smith-Schuster, who I’ll talk about a bit more below, but Smith-Schuster doesn’t have the speed of a typical Steelers receiver, which may be the point. Ben Roethlisberger may miss throwing the ball up to a big receiver who can go up and get it like Plaxico Burress use to.

Tennessee’s Cameron Sutton in Round 3 was a good pick at corner if the Steelers are really planning to go to more man coverage, but they ended their second day by reaching for running back James Conner. Conner is a fantastic story. He is a cancer survivor and played for the University of Pittsburgh. He probably would’ve been there on the third day of the draft though.

Speaking of the third day, this is when the Steelers took a bit of a nose dive. They drafted Joshua Dobbs, the quarterback out of Tennessee, in the fourth. Dobbs seems like he is a long way from even being considered a possible starter and is more likely to end up a backup than be Roethlisberger’s successor.

The Steelers also drafted the very raw Brian Allen at corner, which I can’t blame them for. However, they did draft a long snapper in the sixth round which just makes you scratch your head. Especially considering they never drafted an inside linebacker to replace Lawrence Timmons.

Overall, the Steelers drafted some polarizing players who analysts have very wide-ranging opinions and value on, which makes it hard to accurately judge their draft. For my two cents, I like Watt and Sutton, but the rest of it is very blah. As with most drafts though, we won’t be able to accurately judge this draft until after a few season.

Steeler receivers fought on twitter after Smith-Schuster pick

Before the draft I wrote how the Steelers could send a message to Martavis Bryant by drafting a receiver. They sent a Smith-Schuster sized message his way in the second round. Bryant got the message, but he reacted in a very undesirable way. He tweeted that Smith-Schuster was Sammie Coates’ replacement, not his. Coates quoted the tweet laughing at it, so it is unclear how seriously the two were about this. Anytime we can poke fun at the Steelers for being dysfunctional is a fun time though.

The message was clear though. Pittsburgh isn’t going to sit back and bank on Bryant doing the right thing and staying out of trouble with the league. Smith-Schuster will easily push Bryant and Coates, but I’m not sure he actually scares any NFL opposing defenses. He is a bigger receiver who struggles getting separation. He will have to bank on winning contested catches more than an NFL receiver should have to worry about.

Maybe after an offseason, Bryant and Coates will see this and realize they really are only competing with each other. Still, Roethlisberger has made receivers look better than they are before, but that is usually with quick guys who can use the extra time he provides to get away from defensive backs. Smith-Schuster isn’t going to do that like Bryant and Coates can.