2018 AFC North Draft Grades


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Pittsburgh Steelers

Grade: A-

First-Round Pick: Terrell Edmunds-Safety-Virginia Tech

Best Pick: Terrell Edmunds

It’s hard to argue with the success that the Pittsburgh Steelers have had for nearly 50 years as since 1972 they have only had seven losing seasons. A big reason for the Steelers extended success has been their ability to draft which has led to numerous Pro Football Hall of Famers such as Mel Blount and Jack Lambert playing for them. And one look at this year’s draft class for the Steelers shows that this success will be continuing.

The Steelers were fifth in the National Football League last season in pass defense, but that stat was deceiving as Pittsburgh’s secondary was torched coming down the stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs. The Steelers used their first-round pick on former Virginia Tech Hokies safety Terrell Edmunds who they are hopeful will provide some play making in their secondary.

During the draft the Steelers traded wide receiver Martavis Bryant to the Oakland Raiders which left a void for them as far as having a third receiver. However Pittsburgh didn’t waste that much time in finding his replacement as they would draft former Oklahoma State Cowboys wide receiver James Washington in the second round. Washington joins the Steelers fresh off of a stellar collegiate career at Oklahoma State which included him being an All-American last season as well as winning the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver. And now Washington will add even more depth to a Steelers receiving core which includes Antonio Brown and Juju Smith-Schuster.

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Mason Rudolph

Veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is entering his 15th season with the Steelers, and since he will not play forever, it is time to start looking for his potential replacement. In the third round the Steelers would select another former Oklahoma State product in quarterback Mason Rudolph. Washington put up spectacular numbers over the past few years in Stillwater which included passing for more than 4,000 yards in each of the last two. Rudolph did this while primarily working in a spread offense, but he’ll have a short learning curve due to the fact that the Steelers have incorporated parts of the spread into their pro-style offense.

Edmunds wasn’t the only safety that the Steelers drafted this year as they used a fifth-round pick on former Penn State Nittany Lions safety Marcus Allen. Allen was second on Penn State’s team in tackles last season with 71 and he knows how to be physical in the run game as well as the pass which is something that’ll help him to fit in with the Steelers.

The Steelers have made the postseason in each of the last four years and this draft class will help them to remain as one of the top teams in the National Football League.

Baltimore Ravens

Grade: A

First-Round Pick: Hayden Hurst-Tight End-South Carolina, Lamar Jackson-Quarterback-Louisville

Best Pick: Lamar Jackson

The 2018 National Football League Draft was bittersweet for the Baltimore Ravens as it marked the last draft for the team’s general manager Ozzie Newsome. Newsome is the only general manager that the Ravens franchise has ever known which dates back to their inception in 1996. Over the years Newsome’s wizardry during the draft has led to the Ravens winning a pair of Super Bowl Championships which goes back to his ability to find talent. Newsome’s first two selections in the draft as Ravens general manager were Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis as both players ended up becoming Hall of Famers. Newsome’s knack for finding talent didn’t end there as he found other quality players such as Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs to contribute to the Ravens success. And although that it’s sad to know that this was the last hurrah for Newsome at the draft, he definitely went out with a bang.

Newsome spent the first round of the draft wheeling and dealing as he made deals with the Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans to move back. Newsome’s patience and keen eye for finding talent led to the Ravens finding an athletic tight end in the first round in former South Carolina Gamacocks tight end Hayden Hurst. Hurst joins the Ravens as a player who is a bit raw due to the the fact that the offense that he played in at South Carolina wasn’t known for the vertical pass. However at 6’4″, 250 lbs., Hurst is a freak of nature in regards of his athleticism and the Ravens will definitely find a way to incorporate him into their offense.

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Lamar Jackson

The Ravens were not done in the first round as they would make a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles to obtain the last pick of the round which they used on former Louisville Cardinals quarterback Lamar Jackson. Jackson joins the Ravens after capping off a stellar collegiate career at Louisville which included him winning the Heisman Trophy in 2016 as well as being a two-time Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year. Of the five quarterbacks that were taken in the first round this year, Jackson is the most athletic. Jackson has worked on his pocket awareness which some people had questioned. And the fact that Jackson will have the chance to sit and learn from quarterback Joe Flacco in Baltimore will only make him that much more ready when his number is called.

Offensive tackle Orlando Brown had the potential to be drafted in the first round, but questions about his footwork led to him falling to the third round. Brown’s father Orlando Sr. also played for the Ravens as they are hopeful that the family lineage will to get the best out of him on the gridiron.

Three picks after the Ravens selected Brown, they selected his college teammate from the Oklahoma Sooners in tight end Mark Andrews. Andrews will provide the Ravens with more athleticism from the tight end position, while he is also a dependable pass catcher who can have an immediate impact on this team.

The sixth round would see the Ravens go back to the Big 12 Conference where they would select former Texas Longhorns safety DeShon Elliot. Elliot was second on the Longhorns in tackles last season, while his 6 interceptions led the team. Elliot could be one of the steals of this year’s draft as he’ll definitely push the veterans on this club for playing time.

Newsome might be stepping down from the Ravens in a few months, but this draft class will keep his legacy going strong in Baltimore.

Cincinnati Bengals

Grade: B

First-Round Pick: Billy Price-Center-Ohio State

Best Pick:Round Three-Malik Jefferson-Outside Linebacker-Texas

After five straight trips to the playoffs, each of the last two years have seen the Cincinnati Bengals miss out on the postseason. In each year the Bengals finished third in the AFC North as they were second-class citizens to the Pittsburgh Steelers. But as the Bengals are attempting to get back to the basics, maybe this year’s draft class can help them to turn things around.

The Bengals spent the majority of their draft focusing on “attitude” picks which began in the first round where they would select former Ohio State Buckeyes center Billy Price. Last season the Bengals were 31st in the National Football League in rushing, and you start to fix that problem be addressing the offensive line. Price was the second best center available in this year’s draft, and once Frank Ragnow went off of the board to the Detroit Lions just ahead of Cincy making their first selection, they still made it their business to address their O-line.

After the first round, the Bengals spent the majority of the remaining portion of the draft focusing on the defensive side of the football which included them getting a steal in the third round when they selected former Texas Longhorns outside linebacker Malik Jefferson. Jefferson joins the Bengals fresh off of being the named as the Co-Defensive Player of the Year for 2017 in the Big 12 Conference. Jefferson led Texas in tackles with 110 and his awareness as well as his speed will be a welcome addition to the Bengals defense.

This may not be one of those draft classes that jump out and grabs the attention of the casual football fan, but this group of young men will help to get the best back on track in the AFC North.

Cleveland Browns

Grade: C

First-Round Pick: Baker Mayfield-Quarterback-Oklahoma, Denzel Ward-Cornerback-Ohio State

Best Pick: Round Two-Nick Chubb-Running Back-Georgia

Over the past three years the Cleveland Browns have only won four games which is a direct result of their inability to get things done in the National Football League Draft. The Browns don’t have any of their first-round picks from 2015 and previous years still on their roster which gives you an idea of how bad that things have been for them. And as the jury will still be out on this year’s draft class for the Browns, how will it pan out?

The Browns entered the 2018 National Football League owning two of the first four selections, and the players that they tabbed left me scratching my head.

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Baker Mayfield

The Browns selected former Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield first overall. Mayfield quickly rose up draft boards and he wasn’t expected to be a first-round choice at the end of the 2017 college football season; however the Browns saw enough to take him first overall. Mayfield joins the Browns as the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, and nobody can question his play making abilities. Mayfield has some Brett Favre in his game as he’s a gunslinger, while he could also be the second coming of Johnny Manziel. Only time will tell if Mayfield will be the guy for the Browns, but regardless he was a reach for Cleveland with the first overall pick.

The Browns then used the fourth overall selection on former Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Denzel Ward. Ward was one of the better defensive backs in this draft, but like Manziel he was a reach where the Browns selected him. The Browns also needed help at free safety and would have been better off taking Minkah Fitzpatrick fourth overall as he was the better value pick.

Cleveland had the first pick of the second round and with guards Connor Williams and Will Hernandez each there for the taking, they instead opted for former Nevada Wolf Pack offensive tackle Austin Corbett as they are hopeful that he can be the next coming to the recently retired Joe Thomas.

The Browns did luck out with the third overall pick of the second round when they selected former Georgia Bulldogs running back Nick Chubb. Chubb split carries with Sony Michel at Georgia , and he will provide Cleveland with speed and explosion at the running back position.

The rest of the draft for the Browns was all about them reaching for players as this was another wasted opportunity for this franchise to turn things around.


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