The long wait is finally over, and the first round has come and gone. With many surprising picks throughout the entire draft, the AFC North teams definitely had their fair share of surprises, along with one of the most polarizing prospects to ever enter the NFL Draft coming to the division as well. Here are the grades for each AFC North first round pick.
#8: Justin Gilbert CB Oklahoma State
After many years of missed draft picks, like both of the 2012 first round picks already gone, the Browns stole the show in the first round. After trading back to number 8 with the Bills, they selected CB Justin Gilbert, considered the best CB in the draft. Many thought this would be the Johnny Manziel pick, but we will get to that later. Gilbert has been a favorite of mine throughout the entire offseason, and the Browns have a young and extremely talented corner to pair with Joe Haden to potential have one of the best cornerback duos in the NFL. They will definitely need Gilbert to play to his potential due to the receivers in the AFC North, Antonio Brown, AJ Green and Torrey Smith, all Pro Bowl players.
#15: Ryan Shazier ILB Ohio State
To say the least, my jaw dropped when I heard this pick. I thought Darqueze Dennard was a given at 15 to the Steelers, but apparently Kevin Colbert had other plans. Shortly after the pick, Tomlin stated that Shazier was going to play the inside linebacker spot, more of a luxury pick than a need with 2nd year player Vince Williams looking to man the position. Like I said, my jaw dropped when the pick was made. I was no fan of Jarvis Jones pick last year, but the pick certainly grew on me, but two linebackers in a row when there were other positions in need is very frustrating. After looking more in to the kid, he seems like he is a Steeler, however. He is lightning fast for a linebacker and has excellent coverage skills. His speed will allow Timmons to pass the rusher, more of his strength, and Shazier to play man coverage. A very surprise pick, and more of a luxury, so not an amazing grade.
#17: C.J Mosley ILB Alabama
C.J. Mosley was widely considered the best inside linebacker in the draft, so the Ravens got lucky that the Steelers picked ILB Ryan Shazier two picks ahead of them and Mosley fell. After the retirement of Ray Lewis, the Ravens have been looking for the replacement for the future hall of fame LB. They drafter Arthur Brown in the second round last year, but he had his fair share of struggles in his rookie season. Mosley is a hard nosed player and resembles Ray Lewis a little. The AFC North now is filled with talented quarterbacks, so Mosley will definitely have to rush the passer as well. Also with the talented tight ends, Heath Miller, Jordan Cameron, Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert, Mosley will have to do a little of everything in Baltimore’s defense. Solid pick for the Ravens.
#22: Johnny Manziel QB Texas A&M
To the pick we have all been waiting for, Johnny Manziel to the Browns. All offseason Manziel has been mocked to the Browns, but 18 picks earlier to the original draft position at #4. Then the Browns did something very un-Browns like, they were aggressive and feel like they won something, they got their guy. Manziel gives something Cleveland has needed for a long time, someone to believe in, and nobody better to than Johnny Football. Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way, Johnny is going to sell jerseys, and a lot of them. He will fill the stadium for the Browns, something the Browns most recently had in Trent Richardson but traded him away. Second, the Browns have a different quarterback than they are used to, a dual threat, where Manziel can use his legs and stay in the pocket. More than anything, I love this pick because it gives a franchise a hope that desperately needs it and has for a long time. Good for you Cleveland.
#24: Darqueze Dennard CB Michigan St.
Possibly the steal of the first round beside ole Johnny, Dennard was penciled in 9 picks earlier to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Bengals went for a position they thought they addressed two years earlier when they selected Dre Kirkpatrick. To this point, Dre hasn’t quite worked out. Dennard is short for a CB, but has all the intangibles to be successful in the NFL. He can tackle, he can be left on an island, he has a knack for turnovers, everything you want out of a CB, but his size is probably the reason he slid. Like Justin Gilbert selected by the Browns at #8, Dennard will certainly be put up to the task of covering some very talented wide receivers in the AFC North. Considering Dennard is a bargain for the Bengals at #24, he gets a good grade. Would have been a great pick for Pittsburgh however.
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