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State of AFC North: Cleveland won’t trade first overall pick; draft needs for Ravens, Steelers

The Ravens and Steelers have had different looks to their offseasons so far, but both still have pretty big holes heading into the draft. The Browns say the number one pick won’t be traded for a quarterback, or anything or anyone else, for that matter.

Cleveland Browns v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

There are less than two weeks until the NFL Draft, so let’s take this chance to see which positions the Ravens and Steelers need to upgrade during the draft. We also take a break from projecting quarterbacks to the Browns, and see what it would look like if they added a playmaker for their secondary in Round 1 of the draft.

Baltimore Ravens

Ravens fans fall for April Fools joke

It isn’t rare for teams or players to attempt an April Fool joke, but the Ravens managed to pull off a pretty perfect one. April first is the day people are most likely to be weary of what they see or hear, so to pull off a prank means it can’t be overly outrageous. It also shouldn’t incite sadness or anger. The Ravens fit both of these criteria by claiming to change up the routine for their London game. The Ravens said instead of flying to London they’d be traveling by boat. The trip would be a seven-day cruise on a ship complete with a full-length football field.

At first glance, without thinking it through too much, it is easy to dismiss the ridiculousness of the idea. It helped they included a video of John Harbaugh talking about the benefits of the cruise. Fans went wild about it. The responses ranged from fans worrying about motion sickness to worrying about it being turned into a “party boat” a la the Minnesota Vikings and separately, New York Giants.

Now that we’ve all come to our senses, we can all laugh it out. At least the Bengals’ fan base didn’t have a prank to fall for, so we can laugh at the Ravens’ fans guilt free. Hundreds of thousands of Ravens fans also fell for Baltimore Beatdowns’ prank last year, claiming Joey Bosa would hold out if drafted by the Ravens. That one is EXTRA funny now.

Baltimore’s needs heading into the draft

The NFL draft is quickly approaching, and the Ravens have the 16th selection in the draft. Despite being very active in free agency, they still have plenty of needs, most of which are on the offensive side of the ball.

The offensive line took a huge hit this season as the Ravens lost two starters in Rick Wagner and Jeremy Zuttah. Bengals’ fans know how important the right tackle and center positions can be for the success of the offense, and the fact this draft isn’t really filled with top tier talent at these positions isn’t a good sign for Joe Flacco. The Ravens may be forced to hope that someone on the roster makes the jump in performance and shows the potential to be a true contributor for the offense line. The same is mostly true for the Bengals. The Ravens had a few players rotate into the starting lineup last season due to injury, but it is a stretch to say any of them cemented themselves as starters.

One of the most likely scenarios for the Ravens is they sit back at 16 and address their need at receiver or pass rusher. Pass rush isn’t necessarily an immediate need, but Terrell Suggs is 35, and the Ravens only had more sacks than six other teams last season. This draft is top heavy with pass rushers, and Baltimore will have good options with the 16th overall pick. Receiver is more of a need with the lack of a true number one. Currently the Ravens have Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman leading the way, and their speed is insane, but they lack a target that can just go up and get a contested pass. One of those kinds of guys may fall to 16 depending how the first 15 picks play out. It is hard to say who will be available by 16, but odds are the Ravens will go with the best available and screw up every mock draft out there.

Cleveland Browns

Cleveland pulls number one pick out of trade talks

It has been wildly speculated that the Browns should/could include the first overall pick in a trade for Jimmy Garoppolo. That is just stupid. The Browns seemed to have put those concerns to rest by stating they simply won’t do that. At this point I’m in a I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it mode. Last week I talked about how the Browns planned to release Josh Gordon, and just a few days later they said they wouldn’t. Which is fine. They want to keep their moves unpredictable, but that makes it hard to cover them on what they say at face value.

Still, that’s what I’m here to do, and not trading the No. 1 pick would be the best route to take. Garoppolo is a nice player, but he hardly warrants a first overall pick. He has no big game experience, and has hardly even played in the regular season. What has he done that makes him have such a high price tag? The only answer seems to be “well the Browns HAVE to get a quarterback.” Well there are better ways going about that than taking a gigantic and unnecessary risk.

People always talk about how the Browns make bad decisions and pass up these talented players in the draft. Yet those same people want them to pass up on a player like Myles Garrett and mortgage their future for a backup quarterback who hasn’t even proven himself in the NFL. Chew on that.

Should the Browns draft Hooker?

Here is one for #TeamDontDraftAQB. Okay that isn’t a real hashtag, but there is a large population of Browns fans who are content to build this depleted roster with talent instead of reaching for or taking a chance on a quarterback who isn’t rated highly.

Malik Hooker could add another impact defender, assuming the Browns draft Garrett, to a defense that was just horrendous last season. It isn’t that far fetched either. Hue Jackson met with the safety during his pro day, and the team is hosting him for a private workout.

Hooker is unlikely to make it to the 12th pick though, which is the Browns’ second pick in the first round, and it could cost quite a bit to get back into a spot to draft him. But, adding possibly two long term starters and building blocks for that defense could be worth it. Hooker has been almost universally praised for his range and instincts. He has even drawn comparisons to former Ravens’ star Ed Reed. For the Bengals sake let’s hope the Browns don’t manage to get their hands on him.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh’s needs headed into the draft

The Steelers are sitting way back in the first round with the 30th selection. It’s not an ideal spot for the Steelers who could use an heir to the James Harrison pass rushing spot. This is an amazing draft for pass rushers, and while the Steelers will miss out on the top guys the second tier is still very good. A guy like Derek Rivers out of Youngstown State University, who has been rising up draft boards recently, could be sitting there waiting to be picked.

The Steelers could also use another corner, a position the team has ignored for too many years. The Steelers drafted Artie Burns last season, but that just wasn’t enough. In an NFL where you ideally have three corners capable of covering at a high level, the Steelers are pretty far behind.

It is hard to say who falls to the Steelers, but it is safe to say defense will be the target early.

Mahomes could become the future for the Steelers

The Steelers need to start thinking about life after Ben Roethlisberger, and the best way to do that may be to take on a project quarterback to develop while Roethlisberger finishes his last few seasons. Patrick Mahomes could be a good fit for that role. I talked a little bit about Mahomes last week going to the Browns, and I absolutely love him going there to be coached up by Jackson, but a more realistic situation for him to succeed in the NFL may be to sit back and watch for a few years behind a proven NFL quarterback.

The Steelers would likely have to take him at the end of the first round if they wanted him though. It is hard to imagine him falling deep into the second round. The Steelers have been doing their due diligence with quarterbacks this offseason meeting with several. It is hard to say which one they will hone in on, but Mahomes is a big-armed gunslinger who could eventually step into Roethlisberger’s shoes.