AFC North Draft Preview

The NFL Draft is finally here. At 8 p.m. Eastern Time tonight, the draft will officially be underway. The first round will be held tonight, with rounds two and three taking place tomorrow night, and rounds four through seven at noon on Saturday. A lot can happen during the offseason, and it can be too much to follow for the causal fan. So before the draft kicks off tonight, let’s take a look at the Ravens division rivals and what they’ve been up to since last season, and what they are looking to accomplish in the draft.

Cincinnati Bengals

2017 Review

Record: 7-9 (3rd in AFC North)

Scoring offense:18.1 ppg (26th)

Total offense:280.5 ypg (32nd)

Rush offense: 85.4 ypg (31st)

Pass offense: 195.1 ypg (27th)

Scoring defense: 21.8 ppg (16th)

Total defense: 339.1 ypg (18th)

Rush defense: 127.9 ypg (30th)

Pass defense: 211.2 ypg (8th)

Turnover ratio: -9 (27th)

The Bengals got off to an 0-3 start and were never able to recover. After failing to score an offensive touchdown in their first two games, the Bengals fired offensive coordinator Ken Zampese and promoted quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor as his replacement. The end result wasn’t pretty, as the team finished dead last in offensive yards per game, and no higher than 26th in any of the four major offensive categories. After surrendering 40 sacks (13th) and averaging 3.5 ypc (29th) while creating only 1.31 yards before contact (23rd), it’s clear that the team missed former Pro Bowl offensive linemen T Andrew Whitworth and G Kevin Zeitler, who signed with the LA Rams and the Cleveland Browns, respectively. Defensively, the team was middle of the pack. They were on the field too much and struggled to stop the run. They held their own in pass coverage, finishing 8th in passing yards allowed per game, and their 41 sacks ranked 11th. But takeaways were few and far between (15 total, good for 30th), especially in regards to their league-worst four forced fumbles.

Offseason update

Key departures: QB AJ McCarron, RB Jeremy Hill, C Russell Bodine, OT Andre Smith, DT Chris Smith

Key arrivals/re-signings: LT Cordy Glenn, TE Tyler Eifert, LB Preston Brown, DT Chris Baker, QB Matt Barkley

After suffering a second losing season in a row and accumulating a record of 125-119-3 (including an inexcusable 0-7 playoff record) in 15 seasons as the head coach, reports surfaced that Marvin Lewis and the Bengals would go their separate ways. To the surprise of many, team President Mike Brown instead re-signed Lewis to a two year contract extension.

Desperate for offensive line help, LT Cordy Glenn was acquired via a trade with the Buffalo Bills. As compensation, the Bengals agreed to swap first round picks in the draft, falling back nine spots from 12 to 21 overall. Talented but injury-prone TE Tyler Eifert, who has missed more games (41) than he has played in (39), was re-signed to a one-year-prove-it deal worth $5.5 million. Just prior to the trade deadline last season, Cincinnati agreed to trade backup QB AJ McCarron to the Cleveland Browns for a second and third-round pick in the 2018 Draft. But the Browns did the most Browns thing possible, sending the trade approval paperwork to the league after the 4 p.m. deadline has already passed because they were reportedly too busy celebrating the trade. After filing and winning a grievance with the Bengals, AJ McCarron became an unrestricted free agent this offseason and signed a two-year deal with the Buffalo Bills. Matt Barkley was brought in to replace him as Andy Dalton’s backup. Defensively, Preston Brown, who led the NFL in tackles with the Bills last season, was signed to a one-year, $4 million deal. It turned out to be an important acquisition as LB Vontaze Burfict will be suspended for the first 4 games of the season for violating the leagues PED policy.

Draft preview

Draft Picks:

  • Round 1- pick 21 (from Buffalo)
  • Round 2- pick 46
  • Round 3- pick 77
  • Round 3- pick 100 (Compensatory selection)
  • Round 4- pick 112
  • Round 5- pick 151
  • Round 5- pick 158 (from Buffalo)
  • Round 5- pick 170 (Compensatory selection)
  • Round 7- pick 249 (from New England)
  • Round 7- pick 252 (Compensatory selection)

Round 7- pick 253 (Compensatory selection)

Team needs: Interior OL, LB, TE

First round fits: C Billy Price, C/G James Daniels, LB Rashaan Evans, TE Dallas Goedert, G Will Hernandez

The pick: James Daniels, C/G, Iowa– The interior of the offensive line is just too thin to not address with a player of Daniels caliber. He would step in and start right away at center.

Bengals seven round mock drafts: Cincinnati Enquirer journalist Paul Dehner Jr., Cincy Jungle writer Matt Minich, Bengals Wire contributor Bill Riccette

Cleveland Browns

2017 Review

Record: 0-16 (4th in AFC North)

Scoring offense:14.6 ppg (32nd)

Total offense: 308.9 ypg (24th)

Rush offense: 107.1 ypg (18th)

Pass offense: 201.8 ypg (22nd)

Scoring defense: 25.6 ppg (31st)

Total defense: 328.1 ypg (14th)

Rush defense: 97.9 ypg (7th)

Pass defense: 230.2 ypg (19th)

Turnover ratio: -28 (32nd)

The 2017 season was one the Cleveland Browns would soon like to forget. Unfortunately for them, it’s a season they will always be reminded of. That’s because they made NFL history by becoming the second team ever to finish the season 0-16. They also became the first franchise in NFL history to have 15 or more losses in multiple seasons, and also the first to start consecutive seasons with at least 14 losses. They finished ranked dead last in points per game, interceptions (both thrown and forced), forced fumbles, total turnovers, total takeaways, turnover differential, completion percentage, passer rating, percent of offensive drives ending in a score, percentage of offensive drives ending in a turnover and field goals made. That’s quite the list. It’s easy to see that turnovers were the biggest deciding factor in their perfect season. Second round rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer was essentially thrown to the wolves. He never really looked comfortable all year, but there wasn’t a better option on the roster either. As far as the defense goes, they played pretty admirably considering how often they were out there. They played the run well, ranking 7th in the league. But they didn’t force enough turnovers. Rookie first overall pick Myles Garrett showed promise, starting nine games and finishing with seven sacks and a forced fumble.

Offseason update

Key departures: LT Joe Thomas, QB DeShone Kizer, RB Isaiah Crowell, CB Jason McCourty

Key arrivals/ re-signings: QB Tyrod Taylor, WR Jarvis Landry, RB Carlos Hyde, CB Demarious Randall

The Browns have been quite busy this offseason, the first under new general manager John Dorsey. They won the Jarvis Landry sweepstakes, sending Miami a fourth-round pick and a 2019 seventh-round pick. They also traded DeShone Kizer to the Green Bay Packers for cornerback Demarious Randall, giving up on the quarterback one season after drafting him in round two. They had previously pulled the trigger on a trade to bring in veteran Tyrod Taylor as their signal caller in 2018, sending a third-round pick to the Buffalo Bills as compensation. Left tackle Joe Thomas announced his retirement, and what a career he had. In his 11 year career (all with CLE), he was named to ten Pro Bowls and named First-Team All-Pro 7 times. He started 167 straight games, never missing one in his impressive career. Congratulations to Joe Thomas for his very likely first-ballot Hall of Fame career.

Draft preview

Draft picks:

  • Round 1, pick 1
  • Round 1, pick 4 (from Houston)
  • Round 2, pick 33
  • Round 2, pick 35 (from Houston)
  • Round 2, pick 64 (from Philadelphia)
  • Round 4, pick 114 (from Green Bay)
  • Round 5, pick 150 (from Green Bay)
  • Round 6, pick 175
  • Round 6, pick 188 (from Washington)Team needs: QB, CB, S, OL

First round fits: QB Sam Darnold, QB Josh Allen, QB Baker Mayfield, DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, DE Bradley Chubb, CB Denzel Ward, RB Saquon Barkley

The picks:

1.QB Sam Darnold- Darnold seems to be the consensus here. He has some problems with turnovers and accuracy but he has the luxury of learning behind Taylor for his rookie season.

4. (TRADE) CB Denzel Ward- After losing Joe Haden last year to the Steelers and trading Jason McCourty to the Patriots, the Browns need a cornerback that can step in and start right away. They could look at Minkah Fitzpatrick at pick 4 but I believe they see more value in sliding back and still getting a starter for the secondary.

Browns seven round mock drafts: Dawg Pound Daily contributor Martin McConnell, CBS Sports writer R.J. White, Locked On Browns’ Bill Dow

Pittsburgh Steelers

2017 Review

Record: 13-3 (1st in AFC North)

Scoring offense:25.4 ppg (8th)

Total offense:377.9 ypg (3rd)

Rush offense: 104.2 ypg (20th)

Pass offense: 273.8 ypg (3rd)

Scoring defense: 19.2 ppg (7th)

Total defense: 306.9 ypg (5th)

Rush defense: 105.8 ypg (10th)

Pass defense: 201.1 ypg (5th)

Turnover ratio: 2 (14th)

The Steelers were a team with high aspirations in 2017. Led by their “big 3” on offense (QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Le’Veon Bell, and WR Antonio Bryant) along with dangerous rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, the Steelers offense was a force to be reckoned with. They finished 3rd in total offense. The Steelers won the AFC North and earned the AFC’s second seed in the NFL playoffs. They lost in the divisional round to the Jacksonville Jaguars, 42-45. Ten Steelers were selected to the Pro-Bowl: Roethlisberger, Bell, Brown, G David DeCastro, C Maurkice Pouncey, OT Alejandro Villanueva, FB Roosevelt Nix, DE Cameron Heyward, LB Ryan Shazier, and PK Chris Boswell, with four of them being named AP All-Pros (Bell, Brown, DeCastro, Heyward).

Offseason update

Key departures: S Mike Mitchell, S Robert Golden, CB William Gay

Key arrivals/re-signings: RB Le’Veon Bell (franchise tag), S Morgan Burnett, LB Jon Bostic, RB Stevan Ridley

The Steelers were not all that active in free agency per usual, as they prefer to build through the draft. They accomplished their main goal of retaining Le’Veon Bell through the use of the franchise tag. I consider the loss of S Mike Mitchell addition by subtraction, so that’s good. Some other good news: LB Ryan Shazier, who suffered a horrific spinal cord injury last season, looks to be well on his way to a full recovery. Whether he plays football ever again remains to be seen, but he believes he will.

Draft preview

Draft picks:

  • Round 1, pick 28
  • Round 2, pick 60
  • Round 3, pick 92
  • Round 5, pick 148 (from San Francisco)
  • Round 5, pick 165
  • Round 7, pick 220 (from New York Giants)
  • Round 7, pick 246

Team needs: ILB, DB, DL/EDGE, RB

First round fits: LB Rashaan Evans, S Justin Reid, CB Josh Jackson, CB Jaire Alexander, RB Sony Michel

The pick: S Justin Reid- I consider Reid a perfect fit for the Steelers. He’s one of the most athletic safeties in this draft and would come in and immediately fill a need.

Steelers seven round mock drafts: Trib writer Joe Rutter, Steelers Wire contributor Simon A. Chester, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer Ray Fittipaldo

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