Draft Analysis – NFC North

Cleveland Browns

Surprising many in the NFL world by with their first-round selections of Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward, the Browns trusted themselves and made the perfect picks. While many believed that those picks should have been Sam Darnold and Bradley Chubb, Mayfield and Ward were better fits. Mayfield has the swagger and talent to turn around the franchise and Ward is a hometown player who fills a big need. The early day two pick of Austin Corbett and Nick Chubb were questionable based on need, but Chubb is a talented player who fits the gritty locker room that Dorsey is trying to build. Corbett, however, was a pick that fails to deal with Joe Thomas’ retirement and was a big reach with Will Hernandez still on the board. The Browns took major gambles in the third and fourth rounds, drafting Chad Thomas and Antonio Callaway, respectively. These picks should pay off, as Thomas has tremendous upside and Callaway could have been the first wideout off the board if not for his numerous run-ins with the law. Of course, much of the quality of this Browns draft class will depend on the success of Baker Mayfield, but they picked up enough high caliber players for it to be considered a success.


Pittsburgh Steelers

Terrell Edmunds in the first round was an unexpected reach, even though he has some upside due to his versatility. James Washington was a similarly bad pick, as he lacks the talent to perform at the level that will be expected of him. However, they were able to snag Mason Rudolph as the heir behind Roethlisberger, a steal in the third round. There is the upside that Washington and Rudolph could eventually become the deep threats they were in college. Additionally, third round tackle Chuks Okorafor is a talented but raw player who they have the depth to develop. After a rough start to the draft, the Steelers were able to snag some solid late round prospects, with Jaylen Samuels and Marcus Allen in the fifth round. Samuels should be an immediate contributor as a versatile chess piece in their offense, while Allen is a physical box safety that can be an interior enforcer. This was a pretty average draft, as the few blown picks in the early rounds were countered by some good ones on days two and three.


Cincinnati Bengals

An absolutely outstanding all-around draft for the Bengals, they acquired a starter or impact player with nearly every pick. The had big needs at both the interior offensive line and safety, both of which were filled with the first two picks. Billy Price was arguably the best center in the draft before his combine pectoral injury, and Jesse Bates was one of the best pure ballhawking free safeties in the draft. The Bengals followed those picks up with back-to-back studs in the third round, as Sam Hubbard was a borderline first rounder with amazing talent and athleticism. Meanwhile, Malik Jefferson is an athletic hitter similar to the suspended Vontaze Burfict – minus the issues. They later doubled down at the cornerback position in the fifth round, drafting Devontae Harris and Darius Phillips. The former is an aggressive player with the size, ball production, and tackling skills that teams cover; the later is an elusive former reciever with great ball skills and cover talent. In addition to strengthening the defense, the Bengals also added a trio of good role players on the offensive side of the ball. Logan Woodside should serve as an AJ McCarron type backup, while Auden Tate is a slow but effective redzone threat. However, the best pick of the three was runner Mark Walton, an every down back who only slid because of his size and injury history.


Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens went about the draft with an interesting attempt to draft both the best player available, somewhat ignoring their big needs and focusing on the smaller ones. Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews were solid picks, as they supply Joe Flacco with safety blankets that can also stabilize the run game. Trading back into the first round for Lamar Jackson was a good move, although shaping an offense around him will take change and time. Taking the raw Orlando Brown in the third round was a risky pick, but his status as a legacy could be of help in his development. The drafting of two late round receivers in Jordan Lasley and Jahleel Scott seemed a bit forced, as it was a need that should have been filled earlier. Meanwhile, the Ravens continued a trend of drafting Alabama defenders, with cornerback Anthony Averett going in the fourth round. While a good pick, his superior partner in Levi Wallace was still available. Similarly to the Steelers, the Ravens had their best pick late, taking DeShon Elliott off the board in the sixth round. He should be able to fill right in as a Pro Bowl caliber free safety when Eric Weddle retires. Lamar Jackson is the wildcard in this scenario, but for now, it is merely a draft class with a few solid role players.


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