Overall, the teams in the AFC North had a strong draft while also adding some flash. The Cleveland Browns’ decision to add Johnny Manziel will bring plenty of intrigue and excitement to the division. The Baltimore Ravens continued their strong drafting habits by adding immediate impact players, depth and high upside talent. Here are Jon Dove’s grades with some added insight from Tony Pauline.
Baltimore Ravens: When their first round targets were off the board the Ravens turned to C.J. Mosley, an extremely instinctive linebacker who will step in and immediately and improve the athleticism at the position. He’s smart enough to realize he has an opportunity to learn from a pro like Daryl Smith. Baltimore always finds a way to collect good defensive lineman and they hope Timmy Jernigan meets his potential. Explosive and athletic, Jernigan never really developed his game at Florida State then tested positive at the combine. He has great upside and will have a long career in the NFL if he grows up. Third round pick Terrence Brooks comes with strong coverage skills and he’s a perfect fit alongside Matt Elam, the team’s first round pick a year ago. The two could be the Ravens’ starting safeties for the next 10 years. Crockett Gilmore, the team’s other third round pick, was a slight reach. He’s a dominant blocker but comes with limitations as a pass catching threat. On the other hand fourth round pick Brent Urban could turn into a real steal if he develops his game. Urban has unreal potential and offers great size but was hampered by a serious ankle issue throughout his senior campaign and in the run-up to the draft. Lorenzo Taliaferro was a reach in the fourth round but the situation surrounding Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce unable to stay healthy made drafting a running back necessary. John Urschel in round five was a solid choice and could be a credible back-up on the offensive line. Keith Wenning and Michael Campanaro are two sleepers with a real chance to develop into major contributors. Wenning features a ton of arm talent and showed throughout his college career that he can make smart decisions. Campanaro was one of my favorite players in this draft because of his knack for finding openings in the defense. He doesn’t have great size or long speed but makes up for it with his short-area burst. Campanaro runs clean routes and is capable of creating a lot of separation. He’s also someone who’ll contribute on special teams.
Grade: A- The depth of the Baltimore Ravens draft is amazing with as many as five players able to make an immediate impact and the rest possessing long-term potential. Overall, this is one of the better classes in this year’s draft, almost a regular theme for the Ravens front office.
Cincinnati Bengals: Many thought Darqueze Dennard was a mid-first round pick but when he slipped out of the top 20 the race was on to get him. His physical style of play is a good fit for the Cincinnati Bengals and Dennard has a chance to earn a starting job as soon as week one. Jeremy Hill is an exceptional talent with the potential to develop into the best running back from this class. However, he brings major off-field concerns and is basically a younger version of BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Grabbing Will Clarke is raw and needs work on his technique but comes with a good amount of upside. Rusell Bodine was an interesting pick as the Bengals are set at both center and guard. A.J. McCarron is better than a fifth-round prospect and could challenge Andy Dalton if the Bengals fail to make some noise in this year’s playoffs. Marquis Flowers was an unheralded prospect but a terrific run and chase, one-gap linebacker. Lavelle Westbrooks was a player a number of teams liked as he comes with good size and ball skills. The inability to run under 4.65s in workouts pushed him into the final round.
Grade: C Dennard was excellent value but the rest of the draft was a little uninspiring as they reached for a few prospects.
Cleveland Browns: The Cleveland Browns added plenty of talent through this year’s draft, but also make some curious moves. I love the fact they added another first rounder next year by swapping picks with the Buffalo Bills. However, they missed a chance to add a special talent like Sammy Watkins. Passing on Watkins looks like a more questionable decision after finding out about Josh Gordon’s potential suspension. However, the Browns were aware of Gordon’s struggles and the fact he was only one mistake away from a significant suspension. Justin Gilbert has his flaws but he’s a competitor who played on an island throughout his college career. The tandem of Gilbert and Joe Haden will give the Browns plenty of options on the defensive side of the ball. Fourth round pick Pierre Desir will contribute as a rookie and has a chance to develop into a special player. Of course, the most important pick in Cleveland’s draft is Johnny Manziel. I (Jon Dove) absolutely love the pick and believe Manziel will help the Browns this year. Cleveland’s strong defense will play an important role in Manziel’s success as it will allow him to make some mistakes and not cost his team the game. His competitiveness is something the team will rally around while provide the fan base with a truly exciting player. The addition of Joel Bitonio to an already strong offensive line will also make things easier on Manziel. Christian Kirksey was viewed by most as one of the better 4-3 weakside linebackers in this year’s draft. But more and more teams are taking this type of player and plugging them into the middle of a 3-4. These are the plans Cleveland has for Kirksey and he has the skills to succeed. Terrance West will add depth at the running back position and should contribute as a rookie.
Grade: B Much of the success of this draft will be tied to Manziel but Cleveland two starters on defense and a potential starting guard or tackle in Bitonio.
Pittsburgh Steelers: The headliner for the Pittsburgh Steelers 2014 draft is linebacker Ryan Shazier. He’s an explosive athlete who brings a ton of upside. However, Shazier is a bit undersized and plays more of a finesse game. This will be an issue in Pittsburgh because the Steelers are looking for Shazier to play inside linebacker and he must do a better job taking on blocks in the hole, using his hands and disengaging. He has a tendency to try and avoid blockers which puts him out of position. It may be a difficult transition for Shazier. Second round pick Stephon Tuitt is a good fit for the Steelers defensive line but really needs to improve almost every aspect of his game. Dri Archer is going to bring an explosive element to the Steelers’ offense. His versatility gives Pittsburgh the ability to use him in the slot and out of the backfield. Fourth round pick Martavis Bryant has good size, ran well at the combine and has shown a lot of skill. If he pulls it together this will be a great bargain. The fifth round was a bit early for Shaquille Richardson but like Bryant he has the raw skill to play at the next level and needs to just pulls the pieces together. Taking Wesley Johnson in the same round give the Steelers a versatile back-up on the offensive line who can play left tackle, center or guard. Sixth round pick Jordan Zumwalt was great value. He plays lights out and looks to intimidate opponents. What Zumwalt lacks are great instincts but he’ll do well in the Steelers system. So to could the teams other choice in round six, Daniel McCullers. Coming into the season McCullers was stamped as a potential first round pick yet he played miserable football and underachieved. If the light goes on this will be a steal. Rob Blanchflower was a solid but overrated tight end who shows no outstanding physical traits to his game.
Grade: B Overall, the Steelers may have reached with their first round pick but made up for it with a strong end of the draft.