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AFC North First Round Grades

Matt Pearce

Only one of seven rounds in the 2015 NFL Draft is complete at this point. The first round receives the attention though, and for good reason, as this is where most of the top prospects end up.

This year, the AFC North had five first round picks, due to Cleveland owning Buffalo’s selection from a draft day trade in 2014.

Cleveland Browns

12th overall pick: DT Danny Shelton, Washington

With their first selection, the Browns decided to beef up their defensive line, providing much needed help to their front seven. Last season, Cleveland’s run defense was dead last in the NFL in terms of yards per game and total yards. Shelton will come in and start from day one, adding 339 pounds to the middle of their defense. He will replace 2011 first round pick Phil Taylor at nose tackle. Shelton was widely linked to the Browns and I had him mocked to the Browns at their second first-round pick. A physical run defender, he will be a great fit in the AFC North.
Grade: A-

19th overall pick: OL Cameron Erving, Florida State

Continuing to build through the trenches, the Browns added Erving with the pick they acquired from the Bills during the 2014 draft. A versatile lineman, Erving has the ability to play tackle, guard or center. For the Seminoles, he spent most of his time at left tackle before moving to center halfway through last season––where he played his best football, leading teams to view him as a center for the draft. In terms of value, this is a good pick, but I’m not sure what Erving’s fit is in Cleveland. The strength of the Browns’ offense is their offensive line, which is one of the best in the NFL. Alex Mack is one of the best centers in football, so Erving would have to play guard or tackle. For the 2015 season, it looks like he will play at right tackle, taking over for Mitchell Schwartz. Mack can opt out of his contract after this season, meaning Erving’s eventual fit could be at center. Erving is a good player, but his fit in Cleveland is up in the air right now.
Grade: C+

Cincinnati Bengals

21st overall pick: OT Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M

As many people predicted, the Bengals spent their first round pick on an offensive tackle. Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith are set in stone as the starters for the 2015 season, but both are free agents after the year (and Whitworth will be 34-years old). For Ogbuehi, this is a perfect fit as he is coming off a torn ACL and can just focus on his recovery this year. If not for the ACL injury, he would have likely gone much higher in the draft. For a team that is intent on winning now and needs to finally win a postseason game, you would have expected them to draft a player that would contribute from day one. This lowers their grade slightly.
Grade: B-

Pittsburgh Steelers

22nd overall pick: OLB Alvin “Bud” Dupree, Kentucky

As the draft approached, many people––including myself––mocked Dupree in the top 10 due to the off-the-field issues of other pass rushers. Dupree fell slightly, but the 22nd pick aligns much better with his value than the top 10. Pittsburgh needed to add a pass rush early on with only James Harrison (soon to be 37-years old), Arthur Moats (a good rotational player) and Jarvis Jones (a 2012 first round pick with only three career sacks) at outside linebacker. Dupree fits what the Steelers want at outside linebacker, so this is a great pick for them.
Grade: A

Baltimore Ravens

26th overall pick: WR Breshad Perriman, Central Florida

With a huge need at wide receiver across from Steve Smith Sr.––who will be 36-years old soon, meaning his career is almost over––the Ravens added Perriman in the late first round. Perriman will instantly take over the role that Torrey Smith had in the Ravens’ offense before signing with the 49ers in free agency. At his Pro Day, Perriman ran a 4.24 forty-yard dash. Combine that with a 6-foot-3 body and you get a substantial deep threat. There are concerns about his hands––he had one of the worst drop rates in the draft––and overall refinement, but he should be a day one starter who takes the top off of the opposing defense.
Grade: B



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