By: Michael Adamo @Madamo1
Draft Needs: The AFC North
Baltimore Ravens: WR, TE, C
If you watched the Baltimore Ravens play this past year, one thing you might have realized is how Joe Flacco struggled in the passing game. Benjamin Watson led the team in receptions (more on him later) and Javorius Allen had the third most receptions on the team. To say Joe Flacco needs help is an understatement. Former draft bust Breshad Perriman hasn’t looked like an NFL WR and Jeremy Maclin is in danger of being released. The biggest offseason need for the Ravens is to address WR, which is why the Ravens desperately need to draft someone like Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk or Cortland Sutton. Another need is TE, and although Benjamin Watson was productive this past year, he is 37 for the duration of the 2018 season. Maxx Williams, a former second round draft pick, hasn’t lived up to his draft position with 354 yards in his three NFL seasons while battling injuries and ineffectiveness. Baltimore should be looking at Mark Andrews or Troy Fumagalli on Day 2 on the NFL draft. The last major need for Baltimore is the Center position. The reason being is their 2017 starter, Ryan Jensen is a free agent while backup Luke Bowanko has started one game since the 2014 season. If they let Jensen go via free agency, they could look to draft Alabama C Bradley Bozeman in the middle rounds.
Cincinnati Bengals: LT, S, WR
A team that was a constant playoff threat a few years ago has now sunken to mediocrity, as the team has finished back to back years with nine losses. A big reason why this year was a letdown was in large part to constant pressure quarterback Andy Dalton had to face. After letting Andrew Whitworth sign with the L.A. Rams, they gave former first-round draft pick Cedric Ogbuehi the starting left tackle job. To say he was not ready for the position was being kind. One of the worst left tackles in the league, he left Dalton constantly pressured. If there was one draft where you need to draft a Left Tackle, this would be the draft. Connor Williams, Mike McGlinchey and Orlando Brown can all be impact tackles in the NFL. The second position to look at would be safety, which hasn’t lived up to the standards for the defense for the past few years. While the defense is strong overall, the safety position doesn’t have an impact playmaker, as starting safeties George Iloka and Shawn Williams combined for two interceptions this past year. Derwin James, who had a sensational freshman year at Florida State before hurting his knee his sophomore year, can fit the bill. The last position of need might not be so obvious. While A.J. Green is arguably a top 5 wide receiver in the league, there isn’t much of a supporting cast to help Dalton. John Ross was non-existent his rookie campaign, Brandon LaFell will be going on his age 31 season and outside of a miraculously 49-yard touchdown against Baltimore, Tyler Boyd had a mediocre at best season. Someone like Anthony Miller or James Washington could pique their interest in the middle rounds.
Cleveland Browns: QB, RB, WR
If your Quarterbacks throw thirteen more interceptions than touchdowns in one season, usually that means the team’s offense has struggled. This happened to be the case with the 2017 Cleveland Browns. Luckily for them however, they have two of the first four picks in this upcoming draft. DeShone Kizer had a tough rookie season and doesn’t look to be their future Quarterback, but luckily for the Browns this draft is filled with potential franchise signal callers. Josh Allen, Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen are all in contention to be the first overall pick, so it comes down to which player the Browns feel most comfortable with. Running back is a need for Cleveland because 2017 starter, Isaiah Crowell, is an impending free agent and the organization seems to value Duke Johnson Jr. as more of a receiver than a running back. This upcoming draft is another draft deep with backs, as Saquon Barkley, Derrius Guice, Nick Chubb and Ronald Jones II all look like impact players. Depending on who is taken at first overall will determine what the Browns next move will be. The Wide Receiver position might have been the worst position on offense for Cleveland in 2017. With their three leading receivers being Duke Johnson Jr, and tight ends Seth DeValve and David Njoku, the wide receiver position is in desperate need for quality players. Josh Gordon did make an impact in the five games he played at the end of the season, however he is an impending free agent. That would leave Ricardo Louis and Rashard Higgins as their starters, who have a combined 78 catches and 951 yards in their careers. While they shouldn’t take a WR in Round 1, players like Cortland Sutton, Equanimeous St. Brown or Auden Tate could be available in Round 2 for Cleveland.
Pittsburgh Steelers: ILB, S, CB
When Ryan Shazier was injured on December 4th against Cincinnati everyone in Pittsburgh held their collective breath. He was the leader on defense and was a big part of why they were a force, as his sideline to sideline ability is matched only by a few linebackers in the league. The defense allowed on average 17.5 points per game with Shazier healthy, after his injury that number went up to 28 points per game, including playoffs. Without a clear timeframe if he’ll play again, the Steelers need to find a replacement. While this draft isn’t top heavy with inside linebackers, it has depth, with players like Rashad Evans, Malik Jefferson and Josey Jewell potential targets. Safety is a position that could be looked at in this draft as Mike Mitchell will be going on his age 31 season and will be a free agent after the 2018 season, so looking at the safety position could be in Pittsburgh’s best interest. Ronnie Harrison, DeShon Elliott and Jordan Whitehead could all fit the mold as replacements once Mitchell contract expires. Corner is a position that might interest the Steelers as well. While they need to find a replacement for Ben Roethlisberger, he already had committed to play in 2018, so an immediate need would make more sense. While they have a quality starting duo with Joe Haden and Artie Burns, Haden hasn’t played more than 13 games since 2014. With Mike Hilton being primarily a slot corner, the Steelers could look to add some depth, with names like Tavarus McFadden, Duke Dawson and Kevin Toliver potential targets in the middle rounds.