2018 CPGM Interactive Mock Draft Grades – AFC North
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Pittsburgh Steelers @KennethBurns11
Conventional wisdom suggested that Pittsburgh would use their late first round pick to draft a replacement for inside linebacker Ryan Shazier. The neck injury Shazier suffered in 2017 has been well-documented and Pittsburgh’s defense looks loss without its signal caller. Instead, the Steelers decided to move up 5 spots in the first round in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks. Pittsburgh ceded the 28th overall pick and a 2019 second round pick in order to draft quarterback Mason Rudolph out of Oklahoma State. I like the thought process here as Ben Roethlisberger continues to waffle regarding his playing future and in my opinion has become the weakest link the Steelers offense but I have my reservations about Rudolph. In the second and third rounds the Steelers addressed their Jeykll and Hyde defense with safety Justin Reid out of Stanford and linebacker Gerard Avery out of Memphis. Reid isn’t getting a lot of buzz but he might be the third best safety prospect in the class following Derwin James and Minkah Fitzpatrick. Younger brother of former San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid, Justin is a superior player in coverage with the requisite athleticism, physicality, and playmaking ability coveted in the modern day safety. Pittsburgh has slowly but surely added youth and athleticism to that defense over the past few seasons and with Reid’s football intelligence and instincts (the Steelers tends to blow coverage) added to the mix he may be the final piece to bring a talented yet under-achieving secondary together. The good news is that Gerard Avery put on a show at the combine demonstrating incredible athleticism and strength. The better news is that he had excellent production on tape whether he played inside our outside linebacker. He probably won’t start out of the gate as he is lacking somewhat in play recognition and awareness but his ceiling appears to be on the rise as he’s consistently improved year-to-year as a pass rusher. It’s that same pass rushing ability that should keep him on the field for all three downs once he cracks the starting lineup. I thought Pittsburgh did a terrific job on Day 2 adding more athleticism, identifying a potential replacement for Shazier and solidifying their secondary. Whether or not Mason Rudolph will pan out is the elephant in the room. The system and conference in which he played has failed to produce quality quarterbacks over time. Noted for his deep ball accuracy, Rudolph doesn’t possess the all too over-hyped arm strength you would imagine at his size as the ball tends to hang in the air resulting in under-throws. Fortunately, Rudolph had the likes of James Washington to make a great adjustment. It’s not all bad with Rudolph though. I am a big proponent of year-to-year progression from my quarterback at the collegiate level and Rudolph did steadily improve. CPGM Headley suggests there is some Nick Foles in his game and I would agree in the sense that for Rudolph to be successful he’s going to need to be in a spread offense surrounded by an inordinate amount of talent; and it just so happens that Pittsburgh has adopted more of a spread approach and has an abundance of offensive firepower.
CPGM Juice’s Grade: B-
Baltimore Ravens @KaseyAGregory
It appears the Ravens departed from the typical Ozzie Newsome approach of simply taking best player available (according to their board) early in this interactive mock draft. Don’t get me wrong Ozzie is/was a phenomenal general manager but he has struggled to field a quality offense since extending Joe Flacco following the Ravens’ latest Super Bowl win. The good news is Baltimore made a concerted effort to improve the offense, using all three of their picks in the 1st 3 rounds on the offensive side of the ball. The bad news is they still haven’t managed to add anyone that resembles or projects as a WR1 to the roster. In the first round the Ravens selected tight end Dallas Goedert out of South Dakota State. Often referred to as a Zach Ertz clone Goedert is the latest in a long line of early draft picks by the Baltimore Ravens at the tight end position. There’s a clear need here as the previous picks have either succumbed to injury or simply haven’t panned out. But I’m not sure Goedert will contribute substantially out the gate. Wide receiver is a tough position to make an instant impact in the NFL, but tight end is probably the most difficult and Goedert will be taking a significant step up in terms of competition. I like that Goedert has the athleticism to make a difference in the passing game and the frame to play inline but the Ravens lack explosiveness on the offensive side of the ball and I don’t believe the Goedert addition offers said explosion. Center Frank Ragnow out of Arkansas was the pick in the second round. Ragnow is an experienced leader who if I’m not mistaken has never given up a sack during his collegiate career. With the departure of Ryan Jensen via free agency the Ravens fill a need at the pivot with a player who should at a minimum be serviceable as a Day 1 starter. Ragnow pick was followed by the selection of quarterback Kyle Lauletta out of Richmond in the third round. I like the pick. What Lauletta lacks in desired arm strength he mitigates somewhat with footwork, eye manipulation and accuracy. Again, arm strength is an attribute that can be overblown at times but it is a legitimate concern in the case of Lauletta. His decision-making is sound so his higher than desired INT rate is generally due to his inability to make all the throws. If he can work on the torque and plain of his throws there by adding power and velocity (things I believe can be improved) he could end up as one of those QB prospects that we ultimately ask, “Why wasn’t he picked sooner?” Lauletta had a masterful performance during the 2018 Senior Bowl game. Defense wins championships but you have to score points over the course of a 16-game regular season to get into the playoffs. I’m happy to see the Ravens focus to improve the offensive side of the ball and they addressed needs with each selection (life after Flacco can’t come soon enough). But they didn’t add anyone who is a threat to score on any given play. It is that speed and chuck yardage the Ravens desperately need to open things up for everyone else and keep pace with Pittsburgh.
CPGM Juice’s Grade: B-
Cincinnati Bengals @Littlemankcd57
It didn’t take long to get a bead on what the Bengals were trying to accomplish. After having traded down in the first round prior to the mock draft acquiring Cordy Glenn to improve a bad offensive line, the Bengals worked the phones tirelessly to trade up once the saw their guy, Baker Mayfield sliding. I completely understand the desire to move on from Andy Dalton. I am a firm believer that the “Red Rifle” will NOT deliver a championship to the city of Cincinnati. Quarterback is without question the most important single position on the football field. And while I think the Packers got a tremendous hall in the swapping of first round picks and acquiring one of the Bengals third round selections and quickly ascending cornerback William Jackson, it is slightly more palatable when you’re trying to acquire your franchise quarterback. The question remains, “Is Baker Mayfield a Franchise Quarterback?” I’m not confident in saying that he is. What I do know is that he possesses incredible competitiveness and great accuracy, two things that play in the NFL. What concerns me isn’t his height or even some of his on/off field behavior per se, but rather the fact that he thrived in a heavily RPO laden system, surrounded by superior offensive talent in a conference that simply doesn’t play defense. Additionally, I thought Mayfield had a tendency to be reduced to mere mortal status against stiffer out of conference competition. He is more prepared to play sooner than most of the quarterback prospects in the class but systemic fit and supporting cast will be paramount for him. Mayfield is being touted as a guy that consistently raises his teammates’ level of play but I’ve yet to subscribe to that notion. In the second round the Bengals went back to work on their offensive line selecting OT Kolton Miller from UCLA. Some are projecting Miller as a first round pick and in terms of traits and upside he appears to fit the mold. However, there is too much inconsistency in his game and technical refinement is lacking. All things considered I think he is a Day 2 pick and as such represents good value as a 2nd round selection. Finally, the Bengals drafted edge rusher Dorance Armstrong in the third round. Armstrong has good speed and quickness off the edge and was one of the few bright spots on a bad Kansas football team. However, his game is limited and he projects as a pass rush specialist as opposed to an every down player. That being said, the Bengals have done a fantastic job of developing a deep defensive line rotation. Armstrong will have the benefit of doing just what he does best as well as playing along-side better talent which could in turn free him up a bit more in his effort to get to the passer. At the end of the third round it’s a decent pick in a more specialized NFL. I would have been more optimistic about this draft class had the Bengals not parted with William Jackson but at the end of the day if Mayfied pans out it’s all a moot point.
CPGM Juice’s Grade: C+
Cleveland Browns @SacksonvilSycho
The Cleveland Browns were busy and wasted no time leveraging their considerable draft capital. Prior to the draft Cleveland proceed to trade the 4th overall pick to the Miami Dolphins (who then traded it to the Giants) for Juwan James, the 11th overall pick, the 42nd overall pick and a 2019 3rd Round pick. James somewhat mitigates the retirement of Joe Thomas and the Browns feel comfortable with the depth as their 2nd of two first round picks sits just outside of the Top 10. Then the draft began. With the first overall selection in the draft the Browns selected Saquon Barkley. It’s been a long time since a running back has been the first pick and Cleveland wasted no time in drafting the most dynamic player in the entirety of the 2018 NFL Draft Class. I would have favored Bradley Chubb or Josh Rosen at the top of the draft personally but it’s hard to argue with the skill-set Barkley offers as he will be the lynchpin to the offense for years to come. On the clock at pick #11 the Browns opted for Josh Allen to serve as Tyrod Taylor‘s under-study. Allen has been mocked anywhere from 1-to-15 and was ultimately selected ahead of Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield. There hasn’t been a quarterback that has enjoyed a better pre-draft process than Allen. His game film is uneven to say the least but he offers prototypical size, arm strength, and has increased his stock from the Senior Bowl on. Armed with three picks in the 2nd round Cleveland made a deal with the Lions netting the 20th overall pick (traded away 33rd and 36th picks) in order to draft the cornerback with the best ball skills in the class, Josh Jackson from Iowa. The Hawkeye corner has elite ball skills leading the FBS in interceptions and passes defensed in 2017. There are question marks regarding only having one year of significant production, his technique in man coverage, and willingness to mix it up against the run but when given the opportunity to play with his eyes on the quarterback he thrives. Despite having two more picks in the first three rounds of the draft Cleveland would do no more drafting on Day 1 or 2; instead the Browns turned their attention to adding veteran talent to an inexperienced albeit young and talented core. It was what they did to acquire proven commodities that impressed most. Via an unprecedented 4-team trade the Browns were able to add DE Brandon Graham (PHI), LB Mychal Kendricks (PHI), OLB/DE Dee Ford (KC), RB Charcandrick West (KC) and a 2019 5th round pick, an impressive haul. The Browns with their considerable cap room can absorb the corresponding salaries and potentially re-sign some of the veteran talent acquired as each player is in the final year of their respective deals. Of course these newly acquired players came at a price. As part of the 4-team trade the Browns traded RB Duke Johnson to the Bills who was in the final year of his rookie deal; Barkley and free agent acquisition Carlos Hyde made Johnson expendable. They also gave the Bills a 2019 third round pick. Additionally, Cleveland sent the 64th and 114th overall picks in 2018 to the Philadelphia Eagles as well as the 42nd overall pick acquired from the Dolphins to the Kansas City Chiefs. I can’t give the Browns perfect marks because Josh Allen has too many question marks in my estimation. However, Cleveland did a tremendous job maneuvering up and down the draft board as well as acquiring a slew of quality football players including a couple pass rushers and an offensive tackle who is probably as good as any in the class right now. This Cleveland roster has the makings of a Wild Card team on paper. Good work.
CPGM Juice’s Grade: A-
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