My final installment of the rookie recaps is the AFC North. This division is a 3-team race, with the Browns still lagging behind the Ravens, Bengals, and Steelers. The biggest thing I noticed about the Drafts in this division was the lack of WRs taken, especially by teams who needed one (the Steelers did take Martavis Bryant). I also noticed the amazing secondary talent coming into this division, which should only help to solidify the AFC North as having some of the NFL’s toughest AFC defenses. It’s gonna be an interesting year watching the NFC North and the hard-hitting plays. OK, I’m rambling, so let’s look at the Drafts.
Best Pick: Terrence Brooks (S) – Brooks was one of the top safeties from the draft class, and he’ll join second year man, Matt Elam, as starter in the rejuvenating Ravens secondary. While, at best his hands are average, he is great in run support and doesn’t hesitate in coverage, meaning he has quick instincts and won’t be fooled easily. There is sleeper value here if you need a third safety, or are in a dynasty league and want to take a flier on a young safety. (Photo courtesy of examiner.com)
Worst Pick: Keith Wenning (QB) – This pick makes absolutely zero sense. Tyrod Taylor is a serviceable backup, and Flacco ($120.6 M) was paid way too handsomely after winning the Super Bowl to be replaceable. He’s a developmental pick, but won’t see the field anytime soon, even if Flacco goes down.
Sleeper Fantasy Contributor: C.J. Mosley (LB) – Just another product of the Nick Saban defense, who will step in immediately and be a solid contributor. Hands down the best inside linebacker from the draft, Mosley should be the 3rd linebacker off your boards after Mack and Barr (Clowney was drafted as DE, but will play LB, which is why he is not included), and could be the rookie LB who gives the best all-around stat line. He’s a solid LB2 going into the season starting alongside Daryl Smith.
Best Pick: Justin Gilbert (CB) – A lot of balls are gonna be picked off in the Browns secondary. Already with All-Pro CB Joe Haden, the Browns added the top cover corner from the Draft to complement Haden; the Browns secondary is scary. Top that off with Tashaun Gipson and Donte Whitner starting at safety, and the Browns have one of the best secondaries in the NFL. Generally it’s not a good idea to take 2 players from the same secondary, but with Cleveland there’s an exception. Gilbert could easily top 5 interceptions this season.
Worst Pick: No wide receiver drafted- Chris Carter hit the nail on the head when he said, “The best thing the Browns could do was to release Gordon.” Talented as he may be, he needs help. Already faced with a season-long suspension for violating the NFL’s drug policy again, Gordon was picked up for DWI while driving a first round NBA draft pick player’s car. *In Herm Edward’s voice* C’mon man! Now the Browns are without a true WR1 (Miles Austin anybody?), and having just traded Trent Richardson last season, will look for an identity on offense. Makes you feel bad for the next guy on the list when he grabs the reins from Brian Hoyer. (Photo courtesy of profootballmock.com)
Sleeper Fantasy Contributor: Johnny Manziel (QB) – Johnny “Larger Than Life” Football is certainly enjoying being a rookie in the NFL. He’s been to Vegas multiple times, been bartender in a Houston bar, and has a new girlfriend. Life’s well for the kid, but it remains to be seen if he can surpass Hoyer for the starting gig. Hoyer will enter the season at QB, leaving Johnny on the bench and to his party life. Will Manziel see the field this season? Probably. Especially if the Browns are out of the playoff race. Then it will be interesting to see how opposing NFL defenses greet him. My prediction for him: he will get smacked around a ton, and unless he bulks up and quits trying to make plays out of nothing, when the ball should be thrown away, he will struggle mightily.
Best Pick: Darqueze Dennard (CB) – Dennard will enter the season as a backup corner to Leon Hall, Terence Newman, and Pacman Jones, but don’t be surprised to see him starting by season’s end. Dennard isn’t the most physical corner, nor the best in coverage, but he has great hands and has the upside of a CB2. The Bengals is a perfect fit for him, as his style of play fits their scheme, and the Bengals will groom him to become their second starting corner. Expect the picks and targets for him to be high this season as he works on his cover game growing pains. (Photo courtesy of cincyjungle.com)
Worst Pick: Jeremy Hill (RB) – All this RBBC or 2-back committee business pisses me off. Giovani Bernard has the potential to be full-time back, the Bengals just need to let him play. Jeremy Hill will provide a spark as change of pace back and 3rd down back, but without true RB speed, he’ll be limited in his role. Hill is going to be nothing more than a 5-10 touch guy per game for the Bengals this season, as Bernard has stud potential. The Bengals would be wise to ride Bernard as their workhorse, as he can take hits better than his frame suggests.
Sleeper Fantasy Contributor: William Clarke (DE) – Clarke will compete for snaps with Hunt, Gilberry, and Geathers, but he should still be a decent contributor on defense. He will take a while to live up to his potential, but given his athleticism, don’t be surprised if Clarke wins the gig of starting opposite Dunlap by midseason. Sleeper potential here.
Best Pick: Ryan Shazier (LB) – Seeing the Steel Curtain draft Shazier reminded me of Harrison in his prime. Shazier is going to start immediately on the inside alongside Timmons, but could be the more fruitful producer this season. His upside is a triple digit tackle, double digit sack LB who will cause nightmares for years to come. After Mosley, make sure Shazier is the second ILB off your boards, as he is going to explode this season. (Photo courtesy of thesidelinereport.com)
Worst Pick: Dri Archer (RB) – Those who think Archer is going to be an impact player in Pittsburgh are wrong. He is too wiry and tiny to be much of a contributor outside of special teams, and goes down without much contact. He ran a 4.16 40-yard dash at the combine, but the only way he will break for the big play is if he can get to the outside and stay untouched. It’s Le’Veon Bell’s backfield, and Bell will start, leaving Archer to special teams and Hail Mary plays at best.
Sleeper Fantasy Contributor: Stephon Tuitt (DE) – Tuitt lands in a great spot, as the Steelers need to revamp their defense. Tuitt is your prototypical average speed, very disruptive DE with potential for double digit sacks. Bets are on Tuitt starting opposite Heyward, giving the Steelers two DEs, in addition to a nasty linebacking core to deal with. Although a DE by name, the Steelers will also use him on the interior some in sub-packages, given his size and disruptive style, giving him the opportunity to approach 36+ tackles and 7.5 or more sacks in his rookie season. I hope I get him as my 3rd DE or DP slot, as he is a monster in the making on a smash mouth defense.
That’s a wrap for all the rookie drafts, now let’s get your thoughts. I’m surprised more people haven’t voiced their opinions on the site, as we seem to have a sizable following. If you had to ask me, the Browns had by far the best draft in the AFC North, but made a boneheaded move by not addressing their need of WR. That will come back to haunt them with Gordon gone for the season and in need of serious help. The Bengals will win the division this season, but the Steelers and Ravens will also be there to the bitter end, meaning it could be anyone’s division down the stretch. If you need to contact me with questions or comments, or for advice, hit up firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave it on the post. We’re growing rapidly here at MLFS and couldn’t do it without all your support, so thank you in advance, and spread the word about us.
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