Continuing with our review of the 2015 NFL Draft today were taking a look back at the AFC North division teams and their respective draft classes.
Here is a quick review of what each team received from this year’s crop of rookies.
AFC East ReviewNFC East ReviewHere is a review of the AFC North Division:Baltimore RavensBiggest Impact – Za’Darius Smith, Outside Linebacker Kentucky (4th rd pick #122 Overall)
Smith saw action much earlier in the season than originally anticipated, after the Ravens lost Terrell Suggs to a knee injury on the opening weekend of the season. The former college defensive end turned outside linebacker was now the primary backup to starters Elvis Dumervil and Courtney Upshaw. Smith had his best games against Pittsburgh, the Ravens biggest division rivals. In two games versus the Steelers Smith had seven tackles, three sacks, and a tackle for loss. For the season as a whole Smith ended up with 29 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and 2 tackles for loss. His totals are very similar to former Raven Pernell McPhee rookie totals (16 tackles, and 6 sacks) whom Smith was brought in to eventually replace after he signed with Chicago last off season.
With Courtney Upshaw an unrestricted free agent and still unsigned Smith will likely see his snap count increase next season even with a full return to health by Suggs.
Surprise Impact – Javorius Allen, Running Back USC (4th rd pick #125 Overall)
Javorius Allen took over the starting running back positon after Justin Forsett broke his arm in week 11. The following week Allen had his best all-around game of the season rushing for 63 yards on 17 carries while catching 12 balls for 101 yards and a touchdown against Miami. For the season Allen finished with 867 combined rushing and receiving yards to go along with three touchdowns. Allen runs hard and showed playmaking ability, especially as a pass catcher, out of the backfield. He will enter next season looking to build on his rookie experience and compete for carries with both Justin Forsett and Lorenzo Taliaferro.
Least Impact – Breshad Perriman, Wide Receiver Central Florida (1st rd. pick #26 Overall)
Perriman’s rookie season was erased by a partially torn PCL ligament in his knee. Perriman injured the knee on the first day of training camp, but initial reports were that he would be back during the early portion of the regular season. Then prior to the Ravens week three matchup versus the Bengals Perriman tweaked the injury in warmups and ended up needing orthoscopic surgery which eventually landed him on injured reserve on November 17th.
The good news for the Ravens and Perriman is that he is expected to be healthy and cleared to participate in all of the Ravens off season activities.
Cincinnati BengalsBiggest Impact – Tyler Kroft, Tight End Rutgers (3rd rd pick #85 Overall)
When the Bengals used a third round pick on essential a backup tight end many fans were surprised with the selection, but with the loss of Jermaine Gresham as a free agent and the in-season injuries to Tyler Eifert Kroft became a valuable member of the Bengals offensive unit. Kroft played in every game and made six starts on the season. On 14 targets Kroft had 11 receptions for 129 yards, averaging 11.7 yards per reception, with a touchdown.
Kroft showed that he was a reliable option in the passing game while also continue to work and improve his inline blocking. Teamed with Tyler Eifert, Kroft will give the Bengals a formidable tight end tandem going into next season. With free agency thinning out the Bengals depth at receiver it could lead to more passes going in the direction of both Eifert and Kroft in 2016.
Surprise Impact – Josh Shaw, Defensive Back USC (4th rd pick #120 Overall)
Prior to losing corner Darqueze Dennard for the season due to an injury in week 11, Shaw saw most of his action on Special Teams. Once Dennard was out Shaw was bumped up to fourth corner status on the roster. The more he played the more coaches started to trust Shaw and subsequently he saw more snaps on defense. Shaw made his first career start in week 14 versus the Steelers and was able to help limit Pittsburgh All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown to seven receptions for just 87 yards.
Shaw offers versatility where he can play both at cornerback as well as safety in the Bengals defensive backfield. With both Leon Hall and Reggie Nelson still unsigned, Shaw could see extended snaps at either position if neither veteran is brought back.
Least Impact – Cedric Ogbuehi, Offensive Tackle Texas A&M (1st rd pick #21 Overall)
When the Bengals used the 21st pick of the first round on Ogbuehi they knew chances were he was not going to be completely healthy going into the 2015 season. Ogbuehi, who had torn his ACL in A&M’s December 29th Liberty Bowl game versus West Virginia, started the season on the Non-Football Injury List. He was cleared to practice in November and was later elevated to the 53-man roster. He appeared in five games as a rookie and was mainly used as a backup swing tackle down the stretch.
With the loss of Andre Smith in free agency Ogbuehi will compete with second round pick Jake Fisher for the opportunity to start at right tackle for the Bengals next season.
Cleveland BrownsBiggest Impact – Duke Johnson, Running Back Miami (3rd rd pick #77 Overall)
Johnson’s rookie season got off to a slow start as a concussion and hamstring injuries caused him to miss most of training camp. When he returned to full health the Browns felt his impact on the field, most notably in the passing game where Johnson became a weapon out of the backfield. Johnson had 70 targets which were sixth most at the running back position, his 61 receptions trailed only Amari Cooper in terms of total receptions by a rookie last season. As a rusher Johnson had 104 carries for 379 yards averaging 3.6 yards a carry.
Johnson was lined up all over the field in multiple formations for the Browns last season. New head coach Hue Jackson was impressed with Johnson’s versatility and is probably envisioning a Giovanni Bernard type role for Duke in the Browns offense next season.
Surprise Impact – Nate Orchard, Outside Linebacker Utah (2nd rd pick # 51 Overall)
Orchard was another Browns rookie who struggled at the offset of the season. The problems started for Orchard back in training camp where he had some back issues flare up, and then continued into the regular season where at one point he was suffering from a little self-doubt.
Orchard was making the transition from defensive end in college, where he set a school record at Utah with 18.5 sacks, to outside linebacker in the NFL and it took him a little longer than anticipated to get accustomed to the switch. You saw the light go on for Orchard towards the tail end of the season when he notched his first multi-sack game against San Francisco. Orchard had started reacting to what his eyes were seeing rather than thinking and trying to processes what the offense was doing in his head. He finished the season with 24 tackles, 3 sacks, 4 passes defensed, an interception, and a forced fumble.
Least Impact – Cameron Erving, Center, FSU (1st rd pick # 19 Overall)
Erving was the second of the Browns first round picks in 2015. He was drafted as the center of the future in preparation for Pro Bowl center Alex Mack’s possible departure via free agency. Erving entered 2015 vying for the starting right guard position battling with veteran John Greco. Then during the season he was asked to start at left guard for the injured Joel Bitonio. In those two starts Erving gave up 2 sacks and 6 hurries while looking weak and uncoordinated, Erving was eventually benched during that second start.
Pro Football Focus rated Erving the 123rd guard out of 137, and designated him Cleveland’s worst offensive lineman.
With Mack moving on to Atlanta Erving will have an opportunity entering his second season to battle for the starting center position, but will need to improve his overall strength and clean up his technique.
Pittsburgh SteelersBiggest Impact – Bud Dupree, Outside Linebacker Kentucky (1st rd pick #22 Overall)
Bud Dupree was one of the bigger question marks heading into the 2015 draft as many talent evaluators just weren’t sure what they would be getting with him. While at Kentucky Dupree would show the speed and burst that allowed him to pressure quarterbacks and make plays in the opponent’s backfield, but then he would go consecutive series or sometime halves without making a single play. The Steelers took a chance on Dupree in the first round and they were rewarded with a solid rookie season.
Dupree showed off his burst and quickness right away collecting all four of his sacks within the first eight games of the season. Although he slowed down in the sack department Dupree continued to show up strong against the run and also displayed the ability to drop into coverage.
Dupree claimed the starting left outside linebacker position, after the Steelers bye following week 11, starting the final five games of the regular season as well as Pittsburgh two postseason games.
NFL.com named Dupree to their 2015 All-Rookie Team
Surprise Impact – Jesse James, Tight End Penn State (5th rd pick #160 Overall)
The rookie tight end struggled in training camp with his conditioning which led to some tough love from head coach Mike Tomlin. Then approximately at the half-way point of the season starting with the game against the Raiders James received more game action flashing glimpses of his ability to become an option in the Steelers high-powered passing attack. Then James stepped in and started two games in place of the injured Heath Miller gradually improving his blocking and again showing glimpses of future promise in the process
With Heath Miller retiring James, along with free agent signee Ladarius Green, will be looked upon to help fill the void left in the Steelers lineup.
Least Impact – Senquez Golson, Defensive Back Ole Miss (2nd rd pick #56 Overall)
The diminutive defensive back never played a snap in the regular season for the Steelers. Golson tore his labrum in the preseason and that ended his rookie campaign before it actually ever started.
The good news is that on January 1st Golson was cleared for full-contact and will participate in all of Pittsburgh off season activities.
Danny Shimon is a graduate of Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp.Follow Danny on Twitter @dshimon56