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Around the AFC North: Reviewing the Steelers, Ravens and Browns’ draft choices

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The AFC North probably had the most entertaining draft of any division. There were reaches and surprises galore. Let’s take a look at what the Bengals’ rivals did during the draft.

2018 NFL Draft Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

It was clear the Bengals’ AFC North rivals did a good job at addressing their obvious needs at the quarterback position in the 2018 NFL Draft. Each team also addressed a bunch of other needs as well, but there were still quite a few surprises thrown in there. Here is each teams’ draft class as well as some highlights for some of the more important picks and what went down in the AFC North during the draft.

Which team will benefit most from its 2018 draft class? Will the Ravens get more out of Orlando Brown than many expect? Did the Steelers make a huge mistake by reaching for Terrell Edmunds in Round 1? Did the Browns FINALLY find their quarterback of the future in Baker Mayfield?

Let’s take a look around the AFC North.

Baltimore Ravens

  • Round 1 - TE Hayden Hurst
  • Round 1 - QB Lamar Jackson
  • Round 3 - OT Orlando Brown Jr.
  • Round 3 - TE Mark Andrews
  • Round 4 - CB Anthony Averett
  • Round 4 - LB Kenny Young
  • Round 4 - WR Jaleel Scott
  • Round 5 - WR Jordan Lasley
  • Round 6 - S DeShon Elliott
  • Round 6 - OT Greg Senat
  • Round 6 - C Bradley Bozeman
  • Round 7 - DE Zach Sieler

Doubling down at tight end: The Ravens lost their leading tight end from last season in Benjamin Watson, and the rest of their young tight ends have been huge disappointments. The last successful tight end they really had was Dennis Pitta.

Of course they really needed to upgrade this position if they hope to be successful next season on offense. They have already revamped their receiver position with players like Michael Crabtree and John Brown after no player had more than 61 receptions (Watson).

Andrews and Hurst will go a long way to helping their cause offensively. At least in the passing game. Both of these guys need work as blockers, and Andrews may never be that guy they can rely on to line up along the offensive line. If one of these guys doesn’t develop into a reliable in-line blocker than it could be complicated for the Ravens to get both of these guys on the field. However, in the receiving game they should give defenses fits with two potential mismatches out there.

With that said, the Ravens have been cursed with bad tight end luck. Will it continue with their new guys?

Lamar Jackson: We heard all the rumors before the draft, but I don’t think anyone believed them until it happened. The Ravens traded back into the first round to snatch Jackson along with a potential fifth-year option on his contract for being a first round pick.

I think this ends all the “Is Joe Flacco elite?” comments as the Ravens clearly believe the end is closer than we know. The Ravens have missed the playoffs for three straights seasons, and it is apparent the entire organization feels the pressure. Flacco really hasn’t done much to show he is worth the massive contract and subsequent extension he has received since winning the Super Bowl as the Ravens hit rock bottom as far as their passing game goes last season. They were the 29th ranked passing attack.

Jackson likely won’t start next season unless Flacco continues this trend. Jackson is an electric player who can make plays with his feet as well as his arm. He doesn’t have that elite level of accuracy, but it should be at least passable at the NFL level. He landed in an ideal spot where he can sit and learn for at least a season while polishing up his game.

Cleveland Browns

  • Round 1 - QB Baker Mayfield
  • Round 1 - CB Denzel Ward
  • Round 2 - OL Austin Corbett
  • Round 2 - RB Nick Chubb
  • Round 3 - DE Chad Thomas
  • Round 4 - WR Antonio Callaway
  • Round 5 - LB Genard Avery
  • Round 6 - WR Damion Ratley
  • Round 6 - CB Simeon Thomas

The shocker at the start: For all of the draft process up until really the day before the draft, experts had the Browns taking Sam Darnold or Josh Allen first overall. So it was probably the most shocking first overall pick in recent history when the Browns selected Mayfield first overall.

Forget the lazy comparison to Johnny Football. There are similarities to their games, but Mayfield is far from Manziel 2.0. Manziel often found success in college by extending the play an ungodly length of time. So long that either a receiver worked himself wide open, or he’d toss it up to Mike Evans to bail him out. Mayfield works well in the spread era that is coming to the NFL. Of course Hue Jackson will have to work his offense around that if he wants Mayfield to be successful. We should expect a ton of run/pass options from Cleveland when Mayfield gets his chance.

Of course Tyrod Taylor will likely get the first crack at the job while Mayfield gets an opportunity to sit back and learn, but if the Browns start off poorly it would be hard to imagine Hue Jackson not turning the keys over to Mayfield.

Even more surprises in the first four rounds: Most of us expected the Browns to be sitting at fourth overall with either the choice of Saquon Barkley or Bradley Chubb. Both players were viewed as the best offensive and defensive players in the draft. The Giants opted to draft Barkley instead of Eli Manning’s eventual successor, so Cleveland was staring at Chubb. They decided to pass and instead draft Ward.

Ward is a talented corner, and maybe the Browns thought about or even tried to trade back, but taking Ward over Chubb was very surprising. The Browns did have a bigger need at corner than pass rusher, but the idea of pairing Chubb and Myles Garrett would give any quarterback nightmares.

The Browns also kicked off the second round by drafting Corbett and running back Nick Chubb. Corbett is weird because most experts see him as a guard at the NFL level, which isn’t something the Browns really need with a ton of money invested in Kevin Zeitler as well as having Joe Bitonio. Chubb also was selected before Derrius Guice, who fell pretty far to be fair to the Browns. However Chubb isn’t the same guy as he was before his injury. He has the ability to be a solid running back, but with the team signing Carlos Hyde and already having Duke Johnson Jr., it is a wonder they’d spend a second round pick on the position.

That brings us to one of the more surprising picks in Callaway. He is a very talented receiver, but he has far more than what I would describe as a checkered past. Here is an excerpt from his draft profile from NFL.com:

He faced a sexual assault trial between his freshman and sophomore year but was cleared of those charges before the 2016 season by admitting during the hearing he was “so stoned” he did not want to have sex with anyone. He was also cited for marijuana possession in May 2017 as a passenger in a car stopped because the driver wasn’t wearing his seat belt; he pled no contest to possession of paraphernalia in July 2017. Calloway never played in 2017 because of his involvement in a credit card fraud scheme with other teammates. Instead of looking for reinstatement or a transfer, he decided to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft.

New Browns general manager John Dorsey has taken a shot on a receiver like this before in Kansas City when he drafted Tyreek Hill. It worked out then, but the team didn’t already have an outstanding headache at receiver like the Browns do in Josh Gordon. This move could pay off, and unfortunately the sad truth is winning fixes everything. However, if it blows up it will be that much worse for the Browns.

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Round 1 - Terrell Edmunds, S
  • Round 2 - James Washington, WR
  • Round 3 - Mason Rudolph, QB
  • Round 3 - Chukwuma Okorafor, OT
  • Round 5 - Marcus Allen, S
  • Round 5 - Jaylen Samuels, RB
  • Round 7 - Joshua Frazier, DT

REACHHHHH: I think most casual NFL fans forgot about just how bad the Steelers reached for Terrell Edmunds (not to be confused with Tremaine Edmunds the highly touted linebacker who was drafted by the Bills early in Round 1). Even Edmunds was shocked as he received the call while he was going to the bathroom.

Edmunds wasn’t viewed by any draft expert as a Round 1 pick of the best safety available for the Steelers. Most had him as a borderline third to fourth round pick. The Steelers must see greatness in him, and they do have a pressing need with the departure of Mike Mitchell. It is just hard to rationalize that pick. They badly needed a linebacker due to the Ryan Shazier injury and they didn’t select one, at all. That might prove costly.

New skill player: The Steelers brought in Oklahoma State wide receiver James Washington, which was likely in direct result of trading away Martavis Bryant to the Raiders. I’m not a huge believer in Washington, although I don’t think he could’ve gone to a better situation for his skill set. He is a great deep ball and yards after catch receiver, and that is exactly what Pittsburgh will expect of him. I don’t think he has the body type that will allow him to be that ideal route runner you expect most NFL receivers to be, but in Pittsburgh he will have plenty of time to learn that while also getting ample playing time.

Quarterback of the future?: Then the Steelers drafted their potential quarterback of the future in Mason Rudolph. Pittsburgh jumped the Bengals with a trade to take him, though there are reports the Bengals weren’t going to take him anyway. Either way, Pittsburgh knew they had to acquire a possible heir apparent to Ben Roethlisberger with his retirement talk become more and more frequent. It was shocking to see Rudolph slide all the way to the third round for a guy who some saw as a first round quarterback, but most quarterback-needy teams got their guy in the first, and no one wanted to spend a second round pick on a backup. He ends up being quite the bargain for the Steelers. He is a smart quarterback who understands where he needs to get the ball to. His footwork needs work in order to make up for his arm strength, which may not meet NFL standards though. And, he gets to go pro with one of his college receivers, Washington.

With that said, Roethlisberger says Rudolph is going to need to wait for a few years before he plays...

“I plan on playing for three to five more years, depending on how the line goes and staying healthy, if I can stay healthy,” Roethlisberger said. “If he’s going to be their guy, that’s great, but in my perfect world it’s not going to be for a while.”