In this NFL Draft mock we move on to the always competitive AFC North. The Ravens had to be the favorites going into the season coming off of their Super Bowl victory over the San Fransisco 49ers. However, things didn’t go as planned for the Ravens and they missed the playoffs. The Steelers are another team who had high hopes, bet despite a late season surge, missed the playoffs along with the Ravens. The Browns continued to be the doormat for this division, finishing in last place and with the fourth worst record in the league. Things looked promising for a minute before Brian Hoyer went down with a season ending knee injury. The Bengals again made the playoffs for the third straight season. However, they also lost their first game for the third straight season. If Andy Dalton can’t get it done, it may be time to move on in Cincinnati. Now let’s take a look at the first round mock draft for the AFC North.
4. Cleveland Browns: Teddy Bridgewater, Quarterback, Louisville
The Cleveland Browns have some talent on their team, but the quarterback position is not one of the positions they have talent at. Josh Gordon is one of the premier receivers in the NFL and Jordan Cameron has developed into one of the better receiving threats at tight end. They also have one of the best left tackles in the NFL in Joe Thomas. If they could get a talented quarterback in Cleveland, they would be a dangerous team.
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Bridgewater is the best quarterback in this class and has the ability to be an elite quarterback in this league. His accuracy and ability to read a defense are the best in this class. He can put a ball where only his receiver can catch it and let his receiver keep in stride and make a play. He is extremely tough, playing with injuries throughout his career. Bridgewater will instantly make Clevelands offense dangerous and make this team a potential playoff team.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: Justin Gilbert, Cornerback, Oklahoma State
The Pittsburgh Steelers have long been known for their ferocious defenses that have just dominated teams. Ike Taylor has been a staple on their defense for a long time, but he is getting older and they are going to need to get some talented youth in there and learn the system. Rookies have a hard time playing right away and getting a corner while Taylor is still there seems like the best plan.
Justin Gilbert has tremendous size and athleticism and could end up as an elite corner. Gilbert is able to change directions quickly to mirror receivers all across the field. Gilbert has the size to cover big receivers such as Josh Gordon and A.J. Green who he will see twice a year each. Gilbert also has the athleticism to keep up with the speed receivers in the NFL. On top of all that, he is electric with the ball in his hands. Whether that be on an interception or on a kick or punt return, Gilbert has the ability to take it to the house every time.
17. Baltimore Ravens: Calvin Pryor, Safety, Louisville
The Baltimore Ravens are another team that prides itself on their defense. The Ravens finished outside the top 10 in total yards, which is rare for them. Ray Lewis retiring and Ed Reed moving on to another team obviously had a lot to do with that. The Ravens need to continue to ass pieces to this defense to get it back to where they want it. They drafted Matt Elam in the first round last year, but he is more of a strong safety and they could use a free safety to pair with him.
Calvin Pryor is a big hitting safety who has a lot of range out on the field. Pryor is an intimidating safety who will lay a big hit into anyone coming over the middle and make them not want to come back. Causing a receiver to get alligator arms is almost as good as getting a hand on the ball for a defensive back. Pryor is good in the run game and is a sound tackler in the open field. Pryor shows good ball skills and would be a great complimentary player to Matt Elam in the Ravens defensive backfield.
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24. Cincinnati Bengals: Kyle Fuller, Cornerback, Virginia Tech
The Bengals had one of the best defenses in the league, despite injuries to their best cornerback in Leon Hall and their best defensive player in Geno Atkins. Despite having such a good defense, the Bengals still have holes on it. Their corners, while talented, are getting older. Leon Hall is coming off of his second achilles injury, while Terence Newman will be 36 when the season starts and Adam Jones will be 31 early in the season. The Bengals have Dre Kirkpatrick, but he hasn’t shown that he is a true starting corner yet.
Kyle Fuller had an outstanding year this year, starting with a brilliant game against Alabama. Fuller is a physical and tough corner back with good length. He is able to read-and-react to what the receiver is doing and mirrors the receiver’s routes. Fuller is a good athlete who has a good vertical and can play the jump ball. He has smooth hips and can flip them to turn and run with a receiver. Fuller is good in run support and will get his nose dirty.
26. Cleveland Browns: Kyle Van Noy, Linebacker, BYU
Like the other three teams in the AFC North, the Browns have a very good defense. The Browns got their quarterback of the future with pick four and now they need to sure up the few holes they have left in their defense. The Browns released their best inside linebacker before free agency started in D’Qwell Jackson. They signed Karlos Dansby, but they still need another inside linebacker to play beside him. Dansby is also in his thirties so they need an inside linebacker for the future.
Kyle Van Noy is one of the most pro ready players in this draft. He won’t need a lot of time to sit and learn before he is ready to play. He is an all-around linebacker who can do everything. He is very good in the run game, but he can also drop back into coverage and cover running backs and linebackers. On top of that, Van Noy is one of the best pure blitzers in the draft. He can blitz up the middle with the best of them. He will give the Browns a player who can stay on the field in any situation and can do anything on the field. He will be a chess piece that the Browns can do so many different things with.