by Dave Syvertsen, Ourlads’ Draft Analyst
Below is a quick overview of the each team’s draft in the AFC North with a focus on what they really tried to do with this class. Also noted is their best value pick and top undrafted free agent signing. Value is based on where they were selected and where I had them graded.
1 (8) – Justin Gilbert – CB / Oklahoma State
1 (22) – Johnny Manziel – QB / Texas A&M
2 (35) – Joel Bitonio – OT / Nevada
3 (71) – Chris Kirksey – LB / Iowa
3 (94) – Terrence West – RB / Towson
4 (127) – Pierre Desir – CB / Lindenwood
It was a wild, headline-stealing weekend for the Browns as they came away with some major star power and extra 1st and 4th round picks to work with in the 2015. It’s hard not to say this class is all about the Johnny Football era beginning in Cleveland, which has already created a buzz in that city they haven’t had in a very long time. The rest of the rookie class should not be overlooked, however. They brought in a bunch of high ceiling players on both sides of the ball and when you take a look at this roster, one cannot help but be impressed by the abundance of young talent.
Top Value Pick: Joel Bitonio – OT / Nevada (1st Round Grade)
Bitonio was one of my favorite offensive linemen to watch on tape leading up to the draft. He plays really hard and physical, consistently making the attempt to drive defenders through the ground. Bitonio has the length to play tackle but I think his best spot will be inside at guard. He has the athletic ability to lead block in space but will also have no problem anchoring a position against the bigger, more physical DTs in the league. He’ll be a reliable performer for Cleveland and possibly start right away.
Top UDFA: Michael Phillip – OT / Oregon State
I like Phillip for a lot of the same reasons that I like Bitonio. He played left tackle at Oregon State for four seasons, but will likely move inside because he doesn’t quite have the length and footwork to play outside. Phillip is a strong kid that plays low. He consistently shows good handwork, getting them inside and swinging his hips in to the hole. On a team that could use an upgrade along the depth of their line, I can see Phillip making this squad.
1 (15) – Ryan Shazier – LB / Ohio State
2 (46) – Stephon Tuitt – DE / Notre Dame
3 (97) Dri Archer – RB / Kent State
4 (118) – Martavis Bryant – WR / Clemson
5 (157) – Shaquille Richardson – CB / Arizona
5 (173) – Wesley Johnson – OT / Vanderbilt
6 (192) – Jordan Zumwalt – LB / UCLA
6 (215) – Daniel McCullers – DT / Tennessee
7 (230) – Rob Branchflower – TE / UMass
In terms of value, Pittsburgh had one of my favorite drafts. They were able to select six players in my top 100 overall. Their defense has been on the steady decline over the past few years and they are no longer a unit that teams around the league fear. Their personnel has been sub-par but this draft class appears to have them heading in the right direction. Shazier and Tuitt are not fits for every scheme but in Pittsburgh, these guys can absolutely shine. Richardson is one of the better cover corners in this draft when he is left on an island and McCullers might be the most difficult DL to move in the NFL right away. They went after guys that can fill the roles their scheme has been missing.
Top Value Pick: Martavis Bryant – WR / Clemson (2nd round grade)
Clemson has been all about Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins, and Tajh Boyd over the past few years. But I think there is a legit shot Bryant ends up being the best pro out of all of them. The long, speedy, ball-skill-rich Bryant will be a welcomed addition to the downfield passing game that really lagged in 2013 after the departure of Mike Wallace to Miami. Roethlisberger will love using a receiver with the size, length, and leaping ability to offset the rest of his offensive skill players. Bryant could be a starter early on if he can learn the ins and outs of the playbook.
Top UDFA: Josh Mauro – DE / Stanford (6th round grade)
Mauro plays the 3-4 DE role like a classic Pittsburgh Steeler. He is a thick, country-strong kid that can deliver a violent jolt to blockers with his heavy hands. He is quick in short spaces and a very instinctive player against the run. He consistently showed flow towards the action and ability to shed blocks and make plays. While he may be limited athletically, his style of play could fit in well for a team that has been looking to upgrade the DE position for a couple years now.
1 (24) – CJ Mosley – LB / Alabama
2 (48) – Timmy Jernigan – DT / Florida State
3 (79) – Terrence Brooks – S / Florida State
3 (99) – Crockett Gilmore – TE / Colorado State
4 (134) – Brent Urban – DE / Virginia
4 (138) – Lorenzo Taliaferro – RB / Coastal Carolina
5 (175) – John Urschel – C / Penn State
6 (194) – Keith Wenning – QB / Ball State
7 (218) – Michael Campanaro – WR / Wake Forest
Like their division rival Steelers, it seems the Ravens have lost some of their swagger on the defensive side of the ball. Their focus here was to upgrade the talent level on all three levels, and that they did. With 4 of their first 5 selections used on defense, GM Ozzie Newsome has steered the team’s direction back towards what put them in Super Bowl contention year in, year out. This team loves to add versatile athletes to that side of the ball so they can throw different looks at the opposing offense every week. These guys can contribute right away.
Top Value Pick: Brent Urban – DE / Virginia (2nd round grade)
I knew I would have a higher grade on Urban than most. I love how his game translates to the NFL considering his length, thickness, and ability to control his body. He goes in to the perfect scheme where he can play some outside, some inside based on matchups. I see a JJ Watt type player here because he can make an impact using both size and foot quickness to go with excellent coordination. The Ravens will use him correctly in their ever-changing defensive front seven.
Top UDFA: Derrick Hopkins (6th round grade)
Hopkins doesn’t wow anyone at a workout nor does he jump off the stat sheet. But when you are looking fr a guy to do the dirty work inside up front, Hopkins has shown the ability to do it. He plays with such a low center of gravity and there is a lot of staying power when taking on double teams. He is one of those guys that very few will notice when it comes to level of impact but those that really understand the game will label him a vital piece to the defense. With the Ravens interior shaky at best after Ngata, Hopkins has a path in front of him that could lead to making the final roster.
1 (24) – Darqueze Dennard – CB / Michigan State
2 (55) – Jeremy Hill – RB / LSU
3 (88) – Will Clarke – DE / West Virginia
4 (111) – Russell Bodine – C / North Carolina
5 (164) – AJ McCarron – QB / Alabama
6 (212) – Marquis Flowers – LB / Arizona
7 (239) – James Wright – WR / LSU
7 (252) – Lavelle Westbrooks – CB / Georgia Southern
Cincinnati attacked their needs while leaving some value on the board but grades on prospects are so different across the league, especially as you get in to day three. The biggest question dilemma of the weekend had to revolve around their own view of QB AJ Dalton because there were plenty of opportunities to bring in a fresh signal caller prior to McCarron. Clarke and Dennard fit the Bengals defense very well and I think both will contribute right away. Hill over Hyde is a gamble at initial glance, but Hill likely has the most upside of any back in this class.
Top Value Pick: Will Clarke – DE / West Virginia (2nd round grade)
Clarke played in an odd defensive scheme at West Virginia that I actually believe hurt his grade in the eyes of scouts. I think he was one of the few true 4-3 DE prospects in this class that can make an early contribution. His explosion off the snap is mediocre but he has outstanding length and hand power to control the engagement with blockers. Cincinnati has done well developing ends like Clarke and I think he can be a consistent contributor by mid-season.
Top UDFA: Trey Hopkins – G / Texas (4th round grade)
I knew I had a higher grade on Hopkins than what I saw out there but every time I watched Texas play in 2013, Hopkins stood out to me. He was one of the more consistent run blockers I saw all year. In pass protection, his footwork was solid and displayed proper hand use and technique. Any sort of limitations that I saw are things that usually can be easily fixed. Cincinnati has a future primary backup or even a starter here in Hopkins. Their offensive line, especially inside, has been up and down over the past couple of years, so Hopkins could be a big pickup.