Tag Archives: Cincinnati Bengals

No End In Sight For The Bengals

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From 2009-2015, the Cincinnati Bengals made the National Football League Playoffs six times, but they failed to win a postseason game. And overall you have to go back to the 1990 NFL season to find the last time in which the Bengals won a playoff game. 2016 was an injury plagued year for the Bengals as they limped to a 6-9-1 finish for their first losing season since 2010. There was some optimism for the Bengals heading into a new season as players such as wide receiver A.J. Green who was limited due to a hamstring injury in 2016 were now healthy, but that positive vibe has left the Queen City.

The Bengals started off to a start of 0-3 this season, and it has never got better for them after that. The Bengals were the only team in the National Football League that didn’t score an offensive touchdown in their first two games as they were limited to a paltry nine points.

Marvin Lewis

For Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, he attempted to kick start his struggling offense as following the Bengals loss to the Houston Texans in Week 2, Ken Zampese was fired as the team’s offensive coordinator. Zampese was replaced by Bill Lazor who joined the Bengals last season as the team’s quarterbacks coach. And following Zampese’s departure, Lazor was expected to jumpstart an offense in Cincinnati that was 24th in the National Football League in total offense when he took over. But although that Zampese became the first casualty in Cincinnati this year, there is plenty of blame to go around for this organization.

Following the death of longtime Bengals owner Paul Brown in 1991, his son Mike began to run the team. Following that year the Bengals would only have one non-losing season for the remainder of the 1990’s as they were done in by poor draft decisions. That era for Bengals would see them use a pair of first-round draft picks on quarterbacks David Klingler and Akili Smith who combined to go 7-34 during their respective tenures as Cincinnati’s starting quarterback. But Brown then appeared to finally strike gold in 2003 when he hired Lewis to be the Bengals head coach.

In each of Lewis’ first four seasons with the Bengals, the team never had a losing season and in 2005, they won the AFC North for the first time in franchise history. Including this season Lewis’ record as the head coach of the Bengals in 121-111-3. Lewis had led the Bengals to seven playoff appearances, but he has yet to win a playoff game, and it appears that he won’t get another opportunity.

Following the home loss this past Sunday to the Chicago Bears in which the Bengals were dominated 33-7, all signs point to Cincy missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season. And once you factor in that Lewis is in the final year of contract while Brown has been known to be a cheap owner, the Bengals will more than likely be looking for a new head coach heading into next season, but will it really matter?

With Brown leading the way the Bengals have a culture that is not what you want to see out of a championship team. In recent years the stripes on the Bengals uniform can also represent the consistent run-ins with law enforcement that some of the team’s players have had. The Bengals have lacked accountability which has translated over to the football field where at times they’ve gone out of their way to lose games.

Even after Cincinnati’s slow start of 0-3, they entered play two weeks ago controlling their own destiny in order to make the playoffs. The Bengals were 5-6 and were set to host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football. But in typical Bengals fashion they went out of their way to lose the game.

The Bengals squandered a 17-point lead to the Steelers which was followed up by their drubbing at the hands of the Bears. And things won’t get any better on Sunday for the Bengals when they’ll travel to face the Minnesota Vikings who are a victory away from clinching the NFC North.

Andy Dalton

Lewis is more than likely out the door once the season ends ,but Cincinnati still has a huge question mark which surrounds starting quarterback Andy Dalton. Dalton has been the Bengals starting quarterback since 2011 and he has compiled a record of 61-43-2. Dalton has a career completion percentage of 62.5%, but his 0-4 record in the playoffs is something that he cannot escape. In 2014, Brown gave Dalton a six-year, $96 million extension. And assuming that the Bengals will have a new head coach in 2018, the new person will have to work with Dalton because Brown is not going to allow him to part with the franchise’s starting quarterback who is still owed $47.2 million over the next three seasons.

The last ten years have seen a mild uprising in Cincinnati as the Bengals became competitive. But when the postseason rolls around, all of a team’s flaws are magnified. The Bengals lack of leadership which begins and ends with Brown always rises to the surface at the most inopportune which is something that you can ask cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones and linebacker Vontaze Burfict all about. Lewis attempted to make the Bengals a winner, but to no avail as he could not overcome the losing culture that the organization has. And regardless of who the next head coach in Cincinnati will be, his chances of bringing that elusive first Super Bowl Championship to Southern Ohio will be slim to none as well.

Sources: Pro-football-reference.com, Spotrac.com

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2017 Week 13 NFL Picks

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Will the New Orleans be able to dominate the Carolina Panthers for the second time this year?

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2017 Week 12 NFL Picks

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With the injuries to the Seattle Seahawks secondary, quarterback Russell Wilson will have to shoulder more of the load.

 

 

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The Human Penalty Flag

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When outside linebacker Vontaze Burfict pursued a career in the National Football League in 2012, there were not too many people who were ready to dispute his play making ability. In 2010, Burfict was named as the Pac-12 Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year, and he became the first player at Arizona State to be named a first-team All-American since Terrell Suggs in 2002. But that resume could not prevent Burfict from going undrafted by the NFL in 2012.

When Burfict’s junior season at Arizona State began in 2011, some scouts had him pegged as a potential top-five pick, but several off-the-field issues which included a positive test for marijuana at the National Football League’s Scouting Combine as well as poor interviews with teams turned many people off. Burfict went undrafted, but he would soon find a home with the Cincinnati Bengals who were willing to take a chance on him.

Vontaze Burfict

The Bengals were the worst possible team that Burfict could have agreed to play for due to their recent checkered history. Since the mid-2000’s, the Bengals organization have seen some of their players in the news for the wrong reasons due to their numerous run-ins with law enforcement. The situation had gotten so bad that at one point National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell personally visited the entire team to speak to them. Bringing in Burfict has not changed the image for the Bengals as the player who was dubbed by some scouts as a loose cannon is consistently making the teams that passed on him look very smart.

In 2013, Burfict made the first and only Pro Bowl appearance of his career. But since Burfict came to the National Football League, he has become the league’s poster boy for on-the-field misconduct. Since 2012, Burfict has been penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct, roughing the passer, or unnecessary roughness a combined 19 times. Burfict has been fined by the NFL on several occasions with his fines total now close to the $1 million mark. One of Burfict’s most notable incidents occurred during the AFC Wild Card Game in January 2016 when he was flagged for an unnecessary roughness penalty for the cheap shot that he delivered on Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown. The foul occurred at the Cincinnati 47-yard line, and that along with an unsportsmanlike conduct foul by Bengals cornerback Adam “PacMan” Jones put the Steelers in position to kick the game-winning field goal as Cincy was denied an opportunity to win their first playoff game since January 1991.

Burfict began this season in street clothes as he was suspended by the National Football League for the first three games due to a hit that he delivered on Kansas City Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman during the preseason. The time off didn’t see Burfict change his ways as in his first game back he was flagged for a roughing the passer penalty versus the Cleveland Browns. In Week 10, Burfict was ejected from the Bengals game versus the Tennessee Titans after making contact with an official. Burfict was attempting to state his case with the official after he was flagged for unnecessary roughness, and even though that he had a reason to gripe, he can’t make contact with the official. Burfict didn’t help his case as upon his exit from the field in Nashville, he made gestures towards the crowd which included the Johnny Manziel “money” symbol.

But what is equally as disturbing as Burfict’s antics on the field is that the Bengals are still giving him a paycheck. On two separate occasions the Bengals have given Burfict contract extensions with the most recent instance coming this past September where he was given a three-year extension for $38.68 million. And by the Bengals giving Burfict an extension show that this organization is not committed to winning.

Former Washington Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs was adamant about being unable to win with guys who lacked character. And it is hard to argue with Gibbs as he’s the only head coach in National Football League history to win three Super Bowl Championships with three different starting quarterbacks. And this is something that the Bengals have not learned as their organization has become a refuge for undisciplined players such as Burfict.

The perfect time for the Bengals to have cut ties with Burfict was following the playoff loss to the Steelers. The Bengals had the game won, but Burfict went out of his way to see that this would not be the case as issues with a player’s character always seem to rise to the surface at the most inopportune time.

Instead the Bengals have given Burfict a platform to exude his disruptive behavior, while they’ve also let him know that his antics are accepted. Burfict’s continuous missteps also show that there is not any accountability within the Bengals organization as his actions as well as the consistent losing along with the lack of playoff victories illustrates that this franchise is not committed to winning.

With a record of 4-6, the Bengals still find themselves in the mix for one of the wild card spots in the AFC as they along with five other teams are just one game behind for the final postseason berth in the conference. But just like Burfict’s antics showed up in the playoffs versus the Steelers, and led to him being suspended for the first three games of this season, as well as being disqualified against the Titans, he will cost the Bengals again. And that date and time will be sooner rather than later as a leopard never changes its spots, or in this case, a Bengal never changes his stripes.

Source: Pro-football-reference.com

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2017 Week Seven NFL Picks

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The loss of Super Bowl 51 still stings for the Atlanta Falcons.

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2017 Week Four NFL Picks

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Will quarterback Tyrod Taylor be able to lead the Buffalo Bills to an upset on the road against the Atlanta Falcons?

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2017 Week 1 NFL Picks

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After letting a Super Bowl Championship slipped away from Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons, the long journey back begins.

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2017 AFC North Projections

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X-Pittsburgh Steelers 11-5

In 2016, the Pittsburgh Steelers reached the AFC Championship Game for the 16th time. The Steelers 16 appearances since 1970 in the conference championship game are tied with the San Francisco 49ers for the most in the National Football League during that stretch as they are a part of the elite organizations in the league. But making the AFC Championship Game is not good enough for the Steelers as their six Super Bowl Titles are the most of any NFL franchise. And after the Steelers came up short against the New England Patriots this past January, will they have enough in their arsenal to get to Minneapolis for Super Bowl 52 this February?

Ben Roethlisberger

2017 is setting up to be a make or break season for the Steelers since quarterback Ben Roethlisberger flirted with retiring during the off-season. Roethlisberger has 13 years under his belt along with dealing with his fair share of bumps and bruises along the way. Roethlisberger has only been able make all 16 starts in the regular season two times, and along the way he has dealt with a litany of injuries which has included concussions, a broken nose, as well as multiple injuries to his hands and knees. And at the age of 35, while also seeing the wear and tear of those who have played the game before him, Roethlisberger took some time to examine things this off-season as it would not surprise me to see him hang it up after this season which puts the onus on him to really leave it all out there this year.

Since Todd Haley has been the Steelers offensive coordinator in 2012, Pittsburgh has been one of the most explosive teams in the National Football League which included Roethlisberger leading the league passing in 2014 with 4,952 yards. Many of those pass plays have seen Roethlisberger hook up with wide receiver Antonio Brown who has rapidly become one of the better pass catchers in the NFL.

When Roethlisberger led the National Football League in passing in 2014, Brown did the same in regards to receiving yards. The last three years have seen Brown rack up nearly 5,000 receiving yards as he is a fantasy football owner’s dream, while also making life very difficult for defensive backs around the league.

Aside from Brown, the Steelers have a wide receiver corp that could be dangerous if everyone is one the same page. In 2015, wide receiver Martavis Bryant was beginning to show flashes of being a consistent play makers for the Steelers as he averaged 15.3 yards per reception. However a failed drug test by Bryant saw him suspended by the National Football League for the entire 2016 season. Bryant has yet to be fully reinstated by the NFL, but he has been allowed to practice. And if the league decides to fully reinstate Bryant, he will be ready to have a big impact for Pittsburgh as his 6’4″ will be huge in the red zone, as well as his deceptive speed for his size. Rookie wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster was a second-round pick this year for the Steelers, and after slipping to the 62nd overall selection, he should come into the season with a chip on his shoulder, while also potentially becoming a good slot receiver.

Le’Veon Bell

But for all the star power that the Steelers have on offense, the engine is running back Le’Veon Bell. In 12 games with the Steelers last season, Bell gained 1,268 yards, and when he left the AFC Championship Game with an injury, the tenor of Pittsburgh’s offense drastically changed. Bell is one of the most dynamic play makers at the running back position in the National Football League as he is the total package being that he is a runner, receiver, and most importantly a blocking back. Bell missed the entire training camp as the result of a contract dispute, but he will be ready to go in Week One for the Steelers.

Another key for the Steelers will the ability for them to maintain a healthy offensive line. Pittsburgh has a veteran unit up front which includes center Maurkice Pouncey, guard David DeCastro, and left tackle Alejandro Villanueva who is rapidly developing into a solid player to protect the blindside of Roethlisberger.

Defensively the Steelers were 12th in the National Football League last year in total defense, but for defensive coordinator Keith Butler, his unit is lacking those game changing play makers. Over the years the Steelers defense has been home to Hall of Famers such as defensive tackle Joe Greene along with defensive back Rod Woodson who could put a team on their back, while there have been edge rushers like Greg Lloyd and Kevin Greene who could wreak havoc. However since the Steelers don’t have those kind of players which is evident by the fact that no Pittsburgh defender had more than five sacks in 2016, the Steelers still have some work ahead of them in order to become a complete team.

Pittsburgh has a very easy schedule to begin the season as six of their first seven opponents were non-playoff teams last year. However in recent years the Steelers have had issues in regards to playing down to their opponents which has cost them. But I do expect the Steelers to play with a sense of urgency this year as this could be it for Roethlisberger. However until Pittsburgh is able to develop a pass rush, they will not have enough to get past the Patriots in the AFC.

Y-Cincinnati Bengals 10-6

The 2016 National Football League season ended with the Cincinnati Bengals extending their streak of being unable to win a playoff game since January 1991, however for the first time since 2010, there wasn’t a playoff berth in the Queen City. Injuries and inconsistency did the Bengals in last year as they were only able to muster a record of 6-9-1. But as five of Cincinnati’s nine losses were by five points or less, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis could have something to build off of heading into a new season.

Andy Dalton

In spite of the losing season by the Bengals, quarterback Andy Dalton is coming off of one of his better seasons. Dalton passed for 4,206 years while completing nearly 65% of his passes and only throwing 8 interceptions. Dalton has been a lightning for criticism in Cincinnati due to the fact that he is 0-4 in the playoffs, but he is rapidly becoming one of the better quarterbacks in the franchise’s history. However for the man who has been dubbed as “The Red Rifle” who is a three-time Pro Bowler, maybe this will the year in which that Dalton will be able to get the monkey off of his back and win a playoff game.

Last year Dalton didn’t have the services of a healthy A.J. Green at wide receiver as he is indeed a difference maker. At 6’4″, Green can out leap most defensive backs in the National Football League, while he possesses the speed of someone who is smaller than him. Green missed six games last year due to a torn hamstring and you can only hope that he will have the same explosiveness after sustaining the injury.

But whereas there is the potential of Green having lost a step, the Bengals used a first-round pick on wide receiver John Ross who’s middle name should be fast. Ross is entering the National Football League fresh off of setting a record at the Scouting Combine by running a 4.22 in the 40-yard dash. Ken Zampese is in his second year as the Bengals offensive coordinator and I see him attempting to find creative ways to get Ross the football which includes him being used on reverses and wide receiver screens.

The Bengals offense has the potential to be explosive as along with a good passing game, Cincinnati should be able to effectively run the football with a trio of running backs in Giovanni Bernard, Jeremy Hill, and rookie Joe Mixon. Last year Bernard suffered a torn ACL which limited him only 91 carries. And the fact that Bernard was not available took away from the effectiveness of Hill who is better as a tandem back. This time around Mixon could fill a void for the Bengals as Bernard is attempting to work his way back from a knee injury. Collegiately for the Oklahoma Sooners, Mixon was solid coming out of the backfield as a receiver, while he was also a solid change of pace back due to his breakaway speed.

Tyler Eifert

Another player who is looking to bounce back for the Bengals is tight end Tyler Eifert. A back injury limited Eifert to only eight games last year, while he has yet to see the field for all 16 regular season games during his four-year career in the National Football League. At 6’6″, Eifert is mismatch for defenses, and the Bengals must find a way to have him, Mixon, and Green on the field together as much as possible.

Defensively the Bengals tend to be solid under Lewis, but last year was not a vintage year for them. Cincinnati was 17th in the National Football League in total defense, while they only managed to record 33 sacks. The Bengals must get back to gang tackling and putting pressure on the quarterback as a group. Defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson each are coming off of down years and if they are unable to find a way to put more pressure on quarterbacks, Cincinnati will have issues on defense.

Discipline has been an issue with the Bengals for the longest time, but if Lewis can find a way to keep his teams focused, a trip to the postseason for the sixth time in the last seven years is a very strong possibility.

Baltimore Ravens 7-9

The Baltimore Ravens will enter the new National Football League season in very unfamiliar place as this marks the first time since 2005 that they are coming off of consecutive years in which they failed to make the playoffs. The Ravens were an up and down team last year as they were either hold or cold. And in an unfamiliar mode for the Ravens, they came apart coming down the stretch as after heading into Week 16 with a record of 8-6 and a legitimate chance to win the AFC North, Baltimore collapsed in their final two games. And to make matters worse, those defeats came at the hands of their divisional rivals in the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals. John Harbaugh is set to begin his tenth season as the head coach of the Ravens, and as he is a master motivator, what will he be able to pull out of his hat in order to get Baltimore back to the postseason this year?

Joe Flacco

The face of the Ravens franchise right now is quarterback Joe Flacco. Flacco has been the Ravens starting quarterback since he came into the National Football League in 2008. And although that there are some people who still want to question Flacco’s ability to lead and get it done, he has a record of 83-55 as a starting quarterback, while he also has a Super Bowl Championship to his credit. However Flacco’s detractors may get the opportunity to see what life without him is like as a back injury has put him on the shelf during training camp while also putting his availability to start the regular season in doubt. And with the Ravens not having a quality backup quarterback behind Flacco, the Ravens could be in a bind.

The past few years have seen the Ravens struggle to run the football as they were 28th in the National Football League last season in rushing with the team’s leading ball carrier being Terrance West with just 774 yards. After wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was released by the Kansas City Chiefs following an injury filled 2016 season, he found a new home with the Ravens. When healthy, Maclin can be a solid second receiver in the offense, but any potential success for him hinges on Flacco being healthy. Aside from Maclin, the Ravens have another veteran wide receiver in Mike Wallace who at the age of 31 is still faster that most of the players at his position which gives Baltimore a threat in the vertical passing game.

The defensive side of the football is where the Ravens built their reputation which also led to the franchise’s two Super Bowl Titles. But in recent years the Ravens have not been as solid on that side of the football. The Ravens were 17th in the National Football League in total defense, while they were only able to tally 31 sacks. And for Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees, he has aging players on his unit such as outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, while some of the team’s early draft picks have yet to materialize.

Three of Baltimore’s first four games are within the AFC North as they must find a way to stay afloat if Flacco will miss some regular season games. But even with a healthy Flacco, the Ravens are going to have their work cut out in order to be a playoff team this season.

Cleveland Browns 2-14

To give you an idea as to how inept that the Cleveland Browns are, they have won a combined 15 games over the last four years which included winning one game last season. Since the Browns re-entered the National Football League in 1999, they have only had two winning seasons with just one playoff appearance. Hue Jackson is entering his second season as the head coach of the Browns, and although that he was only able to win one game in his first year in Cleveland, there is some optimism for his team. Of the Browns 15 losses, they held a lead going into the fourth quarter in five games, while they also lost five games by six points or less. The Browns started more rookies or second-year players than any other team in the NFL last year which could be a plus heading into a new season. But will the young Browns be able to use that experience and turn it into a plus in 2017?

For the Browns to improve and become competitive in the AFC North, they are going to need some consistency at the quarterback position. Last year the Browns used five different quarterbacks with none of them passing for more than 1,380 yards. The Browns once again have a “battle” at quarterback position with former Houston Texans quarterback Brock Osweilier, Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan, and rookie DeShone Kizer all having a chance to be under center. None of these players have shown that they can be that guy in the National Football League, and if Jackson is unable to attach his wagon to one signal caller, it is going to be another long season in Cleveland.

The Browns are lacking play makers on the offensive side of the football with the lone bright spot being left tackle Joe Thomas. Thomas is set to begin his 11th season in the National Football League, and in spite of the woes of the Browns, he has remained committed to the team. Thomas has made the Pro Bowl in each of his seasons in the NFL, and in spite of the losing, he will soon get the call for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But aside from Thomas, the Browns offensive line must improve as they allowed 66 sacks last season which is a recipe for disaster regardless of who the starting quarterback is.

With the Browns only being able to win one game last year, they were able to obtain the first overall pick in this past spring’s National Football League Draft. There was much debate as to what direction that Browns wanted to go with the selection with the idea of trading the pick being the possibility. However the Browns would decide on selecting Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett.

In three seasons at Texas A&M, Garrett was a two-time All-American, while he was also able to amass 31 career sacks. As a team last year, the Browns were only able to tally 26 sacks, and although that Garrett was the first overall pick, he is going to have to prove himself versus the top left tackles in the National Football League.

Jabril Peppers

In all the Browns had three first-round picks in this year’s National Football League with the 25th overall selection being used on Michigan safety Jabril Peppers. Peppers was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year last season as he is built like a safety, but he has the mindset of a linebacker. And for Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, he will definitely find creative ways to use Peppers this season.

Jackson still has a tall task in front of him in regards to turning around the Browns. The Browns are not respected by their counterparts in the AFC North as they are still everyone’s “homecoming game”. In the last three years the Browns have only won four games in the AFC North as the culture of losing reigns supreme in Cleveland. And until Jackson or anyone else is able to change that, the Browns will continue to get beat up on.

X-Division Champion

Y-Wild Card

Source: Pro-football-reference.com

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2017 AFC North Draft Grades

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Pittsburgh Steelers

First-Round Pick: T.J. Watt-Outside Linebacker-Wisconsin

Best Pick: T.J. Watt

Grade: A

No team in the history of the National Football League has won more Super Bowl Titles than the six in which the Pittsburgh Steelers possess, and the most recent edition of the NFL Draft illustrated why.

While some teams entered the National Football League Draft playing the guessing game as far as what they needed to do in order to improve their respective rosters, the Steelers stuck to their plan of bringing more talent to Western Pennsylvania while capitalizing on the mistakes of others.

T.J. Watt

The first round saw the Steelers have to wait until the 30th pick, but there they selected Wisconsin Badgers outside linebacker T.J. Watt. Watt is the younger brother of Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt and Los Angeles Chargers fullback Derek Watt. Just like his big brother who suits up for the Texans, T.J. is a freak of nature. Watt fills a need for the Steelers who have to improve their pass rush. Last year at Wisconsin, Watt recorded 11.5 sacks as a member of one of the stingiest defenses in college football, and his workman like attitude will be a welcome sight in Western Pennsylvania.

In the second round the Steelers were able to land USC Trojans wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. At 6’1″, 215 lbs., Smith-Schuster gives the Steelers another red zone target for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and their prolific offense.

James Conner

The Steelers had two selections in the third round with one of those choices being used on Pittsburgh Panthers running back James Conner. The Steelers got a close look at Conner in college and they know all about his story. Conner was the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2014, while he would also overcome Hodgkin’s Lymphoma during his time at Pitt. Conner never gave up and his mental toughness fits the mold of being a Steeler.

The Steelers were close to getting to the Super Bowl last season, and this draft class can help to possibly make it a reality come February.

Baltimore Ravens

First-Round Pick: Marlon Humphrey-Cornerback-Alabama

Best Pick: Round Three-Tim Williams-Defensive End-Alabama

Grade: B-

It’s hard to believe, but three of the last four years have seen the Baltimore Ravens fail to make the playoffs. Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has been attempting to get the Ravens back to being a consistent playoff contender as this draft could help to get Baltimore closer to that.

Marlon Humphrey

This draft saw the Ravens focus on getting back to their identity. In the first round the Ravens selected Alabama Crimson Tide cornerback Marlon Humphrey. With the Steelers currently being the team to beat in the AFC North, the Ravens need all of the help that they can get in their secondary in order to hang with Pittsburgh’s explosive offensive players.

After trading defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Ravens had a pair of third round picks and they quickly found a replacement for Jernigan in Michigan Wolverines defensive tackle Chris Wormley. At 6’5″, Wormley should fit in to the Ravens scheme on their defensive line as they run the 3-4. Later in the third round Baltimore would peg one of Humphrey’s collegiate teammates in outside linebacker Tim Williams. Williams is an outside linebacker by trade, but he is extremely versatile which includes playing the run and pass well. And that versatility could make Williams a starter early on for the Ravens.

The fourth round saw the Ravens select San Diego State Aztecs guard Nico Siragusa. Siragusa is coming off of an All-American selection at San Diego State which included him opening holes for record setting running back Donnel Pumphrey. And after the Ravens were 28th in the National Football League last season in rushing, they need all of the help that they can get on the offensive line.

This draft class might not show up immediately for the Ravens, but they will be effective players.

Cincinnati Bengals

First-Round Pick: John Ross-Wide Receiver-Washington

Best Pick: Round Three-Jordan Willis-Defensive End-Kansas State

Grade: B

After the Cincinnati Bengals failed to make the playoffs last season for the first time since 2010, it was time for them to retool. The Bengals entered the National Football League Draft needing more speed at the wide receiver position and they got their money’s worth.

John Ross

In the first round the Bengals selected Washington Huskies wide receiver John Ross who set a record by running the fastest 40-yard dash time in the history of the National Football League Scouting Combine. Ross ran a 4.22 40-yard dash and his speed will now see him test the arm strength of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton.

Joe Mixon

In the second round the Bengals would put themselves under the microscope by drafting Oklahoma Sooners running back Joe Mixon. Mixon entered this draft as one of the best play makers at the running back position; however most people have not been focused on that due to his past off-the-field issues. In 2014, Mixon was suspended by Oklahoma after he was arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault for allegedly hitting a woman. In 2015, Mixon would return to Oklahoma and become a key contributor to the Sooners winning 22 games over the last two college football seasons. But when video surfaced late in 2016 of Mixon hitting the woman during the 2014 incident, he was immediately taken off of some team’s draft boards. Now the Bengals must face the public backlash and if they and Mixon are able to get past that, he could be a very productive player for them.

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has always believed in stock piling pass rushers, and in a division with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, you can never have enough players who can put pressure on the quarterback. The third round saw Cincinnati select Kansas State Wildcats defensive end Jordan Willis. Willis comes to the Bengals as a very polished edge rusher. In 2016, Willis was the Big 12 Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year as he recorded 11.5 sacks. The Bengals didn’t stop there as in the fourth round they selected Auburn Tigers defensive end Carl Lawson. Lawson had the potential to be taken late in the first round, but questions about his durability saw his stock fall. Now Willis and Lawson can learn from veteran Bengals defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson while also contributing on the field.

If the Bengals can stay healthy in 2017, they should once again be able to contend for a playoff spot.

Cleveland Browns

First-Round Pick: Myles Garrett-Defensive End-Texas A&M, Jabril Peppers-Safety-Michigan, David Njoku-Tight End-Miami

Best Pick: Myles Garrett

Grade: D

The Cleveland Browns had a real opportunity to reverse the fortunes of their franchise at the 2017 National Football League Draft. But it typical Browns fashion, they let that opportunity go by the wayside.

The Browns entered the draft in possession of the first overall pick which was almost impossible for even them to mess up. The Browns used that selection on Texas A&M Aggies defensive end Myles Garrett who has freakish pass rushing ability. But the biggest issue for Garrett is whether or not that he’ll get sucked into the Bermuda Triangle in which so many first-round picks of the Browns have gotten lost in. And after the selection of Garrett, it was completely downhill from there for the Browns.

The Browns owned the 12th overall pick and they were in need of a quarterback. However with North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky having been drafted by the Chicago Bears, Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson was sitting there waiting for a phone call with area code 440 attached to it. Instead of taking Watson, the Browns made a trade with the Houston Texans who were poised to take Watson and make him their franchise quarterback. And as I’ve said before, the Browns will rue the day in which they passed on Watson as he is a proven winner which is what they need in their locker room.

Cleveland would make take two more selections in the first round as they pegged Michigan Wolverines strong safety Jabril Peppers 25th overall and Miami Hurricanes tight end David Njoku 29th overall. Peppers saw his draft stock fall as the result of a diluted sample at the Scouting Combine, while teams weren’t sure if he is a safety or an outside linebacker. Njoku was arguably the best athlete at the tight end position coming into the draft, but how much of an impact that he can with Cleveland remains to be seen.

After passing up on Watson, the Browns would then take Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer in the second round. Kizer had more uncertainty as far as his ability to be a professional quarterback than the three signal callers who were selected in the first round. Kizer is still very raw a passer which includes questions about his pocket awareness and ability to break down pro-style defenses as it appears to be simply another case of goofing up by the Browns.

Caleb Brantley

In the sixth round Cleveland would select Florida Gators defensive tackle Caleb Brantley who saw his draft stock diminish after he was accused of punching a woman last month to the point that the alleged victim required dental work. Brantley had second round potential, but most teams weren’t willing to touch him with a 10-foot pole after the allegations came out against him. The Browns contend that they can still release him based off of potential legal ramifications, but why put your franchise in that position in the first place?

Since the Browns re-entered the National Football League in 1999, they’ve only had two winning seasons. And after the Browns went 1-15 last season, they laid a complete egg at the draft as they will continue to be the whipping boys of the AFC North, along with being the laughing stock of the NFL.

Source: Cfbstats.com

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