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Final AFC North Mock Draft Analysis

Matt Pearce

With the 2015 NFL Draft just a few days away, my final three round mock draft has been posted (link). Let’s take a look at the picks from the teams in the AFC North.

If you want to create your own mock draft, check out Fanspeak’s On the Clock Simulator.

Cleveland Browns

Round 1 (Pick #12): WR DeVante Parker, Louisville
Round 1 (Pick #19, via Buffalo): DT Danny Shelton, Washington
Round 2 (Pick #43): OLB Eli Harold, Virginia
Round 3 (Pick #77): TE Clive Walford, Miami (FL)

Possessing two first round picks, thanks to a draft day trade last year, the Browns are sitting in a great position. They can stay put and take whoever they want, or they can easily move up for a player they want (Marcus Mariota?). With no trades projected in this mock draft, the Browns stay where they are.

In this first round, the Browns add two instant starters, one on offense and one on defense. Cleveland signed two wide receivers in free agency, but those are only short-term fixes. Parker would give the Browns’ offense a weapon on the outside for years to come. Last season, the Browns’ run defense was dead last in the NFL. Shelton would replace the underwhelming Phil Taylor at nose tackle, anchoring the Browns’ defense. This would instantly improve the run defense.

Jabaal Sheard departed for New England in free agency, leaving a hole at outside linebacker. Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo are still around, but Mingo isn’t an every down player and Cleveland could continue to utilize their three-man rotation with Harold. He would come in and instantly replace Sheard’s production on defense.

At tight end, the Browns have significantly downgraded this offseason as Jordan Cameron left for Miami after almost re-signing. Enter Walford, who would be the day one starter at tight end for the Browns. Cleveland has a new offensive coordinator this season, but the tight end position was an important part of their offense last year.

Cincinnati Bengals

Round 1 (Pick #21): OT La’el Collins, LSU
Round 2 (Pick #53): DT Michael Bennett, Ohio State
Round 3 (Pick #85): WR Tre McBride, William & Mary
Round 3 (Pick #99, compensatory pick): DE Frank Clark, Michigan

With the addition of Michael Johnson in free agency, the Bengals will enter the draft without any glaring needs, which is always a good thing.

At the end of the 2015 season, both starting offensive tackles (Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith) are set to be free agents. Whitworth will be 34-years old at the end of the season and Smith has been inconsistent throughout his career. Collins would have to sit on the bench as a rookie, but would be penciled in as a starter in 2016. Cincinnati’s roster has the ability to let a first round pick sit for a season. As a bonus, Collins is good friends with running back Jeremy Hill, who also played at LSU.

The biggest need on the Bengals’ roster is at defensive tackle, where Domata Peko can be improved upon. Bennett is the perfect fit for a penetrating 4-3 defense, which is what Cincinnati runs. A defensive tackle pairing of Bennett and Geno Atkins should keep the Bengals’ defense strong.

In the third round, Cincinnati adds a receiver and a defensive end. McBride is a small school prospect, but he has NFL-caliber talent. He may take a bit of time to adjust to the NFL, but he should give Andy Dalton another target to throw to. Clark has recently flown up draft boards as his domestic violence charge was dismissed. Now that this is gone, Clark is back to being a solid mid-draft pass rusher––which is what the Bengals need.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Round 1 (Pick #22): CB Kevin Johnson, Wake Forest
Round 2 (Pick #56): OLB Nate Orchard, Utah

Round 3 (Pick #87): S Derron Smith, Fresno State

Pittsburgh’s offense was second in the NFL in total yards last season, while the defense was 18th. With that in mind, expect the Steelers’ draft to be defense heavy.

Within the defense, secondary is the biggest need, as they can use new players at cornerback and safety. Johnson would fit very well in the Steelers’ scheme. The defense is in transition right now with stalwarts Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor retired and coordinator Dick LeBeau gone. The cornerback position is very weak in Pittsburgh right now, so a cornerback will be picked early.

Assuming cornerback has been addressed in the first round, Orchard would make plenty of sense for the Steelers. At outside linebacker, the Steelers currently have Jarvis Jones, Arthur Moats and James Harrison. Jones has just three sacks in two seasons, Moats is a solid role player, but isn’t a starter, and Harrison is going to be 37-years old to start the season. All of this makes outside linebacker a need for the Steelers.

Moving back to the secondary, Pittsburgh only has one starter set at safety in Mike Mitchell as Polamalu is gone. Smith is a ballhawk safety who can impact the game from the backend. This is what the Steelers desperately need in their secondary.

Baltimore Ravens

Round 1 (Pick #26): CB Marcus Peters, Washington
Round 2 (Pick #58): WR Devin Smith, Ohio State

Round 3 (Pick #90): OLB Trey Flowers, Arkansas

The Ravens have 10 draft picks this year, but all of their extra picks are in later rounds (three picks in both the fourth and fifth rounds).

It seemed like Baltimore had a new starting cornerback every week last season as injuries and poor play decimated their secondary. A healthy Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb will improve the secondary, but cornerback is still a major need. Peters is very similar to Smith. Both are über-talented, physical cornerbacks with character concerns. Having Peters and Smith on the outside and Webb in the slot in nickel packages would give the Ravens an impressive cornerback trio.

Torrey Smith departed for the 49ers in free agency, leaving the Ravens with a major hole at wide receiver. Smith started as just a deep threat, but was able to develop into a true number two receiver. Enter a new Smith, who is considered by many to be just a deep threat right now. From the start, he would be an impact deep threat while he takes his time to develop into a better receiver.

Outside linebacker isn’t a major need for the Ravens, but it is a dark horse position for an early draft pick. Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are both over 30-years old and Courtney Upshaw will be a free agent at the end of the season. Pernell McPhee had a huge impact on their defense last season and he departed for Chicago in free agency, so expect the Ravens to target another one. Flowers fits the bill for what the Ravens would be looking for at outside linebacker.



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