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Draft Review: AFC North

In an division open for the taking, how did the teams do on Draft weekend? Greg Gabriel

May 16, 2014
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There isn’t a dominant team in the AFC North at present. Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Baltimore are all good teams, but at the end of the 2013 season, none was a team that was going to challenge for the AFC title. Let’s see if the 2014 draft helped change that.

Baltimore Ravens

Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta do as good a job as any in preparing for and actually drafting players. 2014 was a little different in that they took some players with some risk during the premium rounds.

C.J. Mosley from Alabama was perhaps the best inside linebacker in the draft. He is a very active player with top instincts and excellent ability to play both the run and pass. In the Baltimore defensive scheme, he can play either inside linebacker position and will not be a liability on passing downs. The risk factor is durability. There were NFL clubs that had Mosley red flagged. He has had hip, knee and shoulder injuries while at Alabama and longevity is a concern.

Second round pick Timmy Jernigan is not your typical 3-4 defensive lineman. While drafted to be a nose, he played more one and two-technique at Florida State. He is an attacking defensive lineman who may be best off in a one-gap scheme, but also gives the Ravens something they don’t already have on their defensive line: a quick penetrator with top pass rush skills.

Terrance Brooks, a teammate of Jernigan’s at Florida State is part safety and part corner. He has corner size and traits but is physical enough to play at the safety position. Early on, he will help the Ravens when they go to their various sub packages.

Crockett Gillmore is more of a blocking-type tight end. He is still developing as a receiver. Brent Urban is a big five-technique defensive end. He is very good versus the run but needs to develop his pass rush skills. He has had numerous injuries while at Virginia and that has slowed his development.

Lorenzo Taliaferro is a big athletic inside runner who fits what Gary Kubiak wants at the running back position. John Urschel played guard at Penn State but has the traits to be able to play guard or center in the NFL. Final pick Mike Campanaro, the wide receiver from Wake Forest, is ultra-productive, but small with short arms. He will be tough to run off.

Cleveland Browns

New Browns General Manager Ray Farmer pulled off the heist of the year when he got Buffalo’s first and fourth round picks in 2015 to move down from the fourth to ninth slot in the first round. His trade to move from nine to eight might not have been necessary in order to draft corner Justin Gilbert. Many felt Gilbert was the best corner in the draft and should come in and play right away.

With their second first round selection, the Browns took Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. Cleveland was the right club for Manziel to go to, as offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan knows how to work with an athletic quarterback. While the Browns aren’t handing Manziel the starting job right away, I expect him to be the starter before the halfway point in the season.

Joel Bitonio is a solid offensive lineman who can play guard or tackle. Bitonio is a quick study who plays an aggressive brand of football. Look for him to start right away. Linebacker Christian Kirksey played outside at Iowa but will move inside for Cleveland. He is an instinctive, aggressive downhill player who is a good fit.

Towson running back Terrance West is a powerful inside runner with some speed. He is very good vision and and the quick feet needed to make a cut in the hole to daylight. Corner Peirre Desir is very raw, but he has size speed and athleticism. He showed at the East-West and Senior Bowl games that he can play against the big boys. He will need a period of adjustment, but will be an eventual starter.

With the probable loss of Josh Gordon to suspension, the Browns did not address the receiver position in the draft. The big question is why?

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals have the smallest scouting staff in the league. The coaching staff does a majority of the scouting but they still do as good a job as any team when it comes to drafting.

Michigan State corner Darqueze Dennard is a very aggressive player who can play press man, off, and zone. He is as good as any corner in this draft. Running back Jeremy Hill is a big talented inside runner who will be an excellent complement to Giovanni Bernard, drafted last year.

Will Clarke is an undersized pass rusher with a quick first step who will provide depth. Russ Bodine is very strong and competitive and has the skills to also play guard.

How quarterback A.J. McCarron slipped to the fifth round is beyond me. Reportedly, he did not do well in interviews, but this is a quality quarterback with the skills to start by his second year. I feel this pick may be one of the steals of the draft. The rest of the Bengals draft choices are all developmental guys who will challenge for a spot on the practice squad.

Pittsburgh Steelers

General Manager Kevin Colbert is an excellent evaluator and year after year does an outstanding job in the draft.

In top pick Ryan Shazier, the linebacker for Ohio State, the Steelers got a player who is more athletic than anyone they have had at the position in years. At 237 pounds, he can run a sub 4.50 and has excellent instincts. He will help the Steelers' defense improve versus both the pass and run.

Defensive end Stephon Tuitt is an ideal five-technique. He played at 330 during the 2013 season which was too heavy for him. He got down to 300 for the combine, but ideally he should be in the 315 range. He has very good pass rush traits and is stout versus the run.

I thought the third round was a bit high for running back Dri Archer. At 5080 – 173, he will never be an every down player. He is a gifted returner and a consistent receiver. If he can get 12-15 touches a game as a runner, receiver and returner, he will give the Steelers a number of big plays.

Clemson receiver Martavis Bryant has excellent talent but doesn’t consistently play up to that talent. He needs to toughen up and mature. If he does, the Steelers got a lot of value for a fourth-round pick. Arizona corner Shaq Richardson wasn’t a combine invite but tested out as well as any corner in the draft. He has a lot of upside.

UCLA linebacker Jordan Zumwalt is a competitor with good instincts. He needs to shed blocks a little quicker, but he will provide quality depth inside. Tennessee nose tackle Dan McCullers is as big as they come. While not that athletic, he is tough to move and can consistently occupy two blockers. He will help the run defense but has no pass rush ability.

Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe
 

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