A Quick Look at the AFC North 1st Round Picks

TJ WattThis really will be a quick look, and furthermore it is live as of 11:00 pm. The picture will go up when I know who the Steelers have picked. With any luck I can use one of the pictures already in the archives from my mock drafts.

More thorough analysis will come when the excitement dies down. (And for that matter it’s pretty hard to “analyze” a draft pick before several years are up.) But we can’t just abnegate our responsibility as a fan base, which is, of course, to decide, based upon the draft picks, who is going to win the Super Bowl. So here goes:

Cleveland Browns:

It remains to be seen how well Moneyball-type stats analysis works on a game with such small sample sizes. That said, I have to like the Browns’ stockpiling of draft picks. Or at least I would if I were a Browns fan. How well they use them remains to be seen, but surely it would be difficult to do worse than the previous five or ten administrations. Here’s what they’ve done so far:

Round 1 Pick 1: It’s going to be DE Myles Garrett. I’m writing this before the pick, and it just will. Everyone says this, and with good cause, because if you go by the NFL.com prospect ratings, Garrett is almost an entire point (out of 10) above the next highest prospect – they rated him at a 7.6, with the next best guy, DE Solomon Thomas, rated at 6.8. That’s a big difference.

That said, the Browns have been on the clock an awfully long time, considering this is supposed to be a slam dunk pick. But in the end they did pick Garrett. At least the guy has had a while to prepare for this. Here’s what Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell have to look forward to (from his NFL.com draft profile):

His first three steps can throw an offense into disarray…Lightning-fast inside charge extremely disruptive against the run…Outstanding rate as a tackle finisher with running backs and quarterbacks rarely escaping his clutches.

It’s hard to imagine he even has weaknesses if he can do all that, but here are a few which give the rest of the AFC North some hope:

Relies heavily on tremendous athleticism and explosion. Still learning how to string moves together and work with a pass-rush plan. At times, will take too long to activate counter moves when initial attack has stalled. Effort level appears closely tied to fatigue level at times. As pass rusher, uses hands reactively too often rather than proactively.

He sounds like the real deal. We’ll see how quickly he has adjusted to the NFL in Game 1….

Next up, the Cincinnati Bengals. They had Pick No. 9, and there were a lot of good players left on the board as a result of a few head-scratchers, namely the Bears trading up for Trubinsky and the Panthers taking Christian McCaffrey. Nothing wrong with either guy, but both were somewhat overdrafted, according to the experts. McCaffrey possibly has Le’Veon Bell to thank for his draft spot, not just because Bell actually worked with him but because the league saw the value of what Bell does..

At any rate, the Bengals actually chose WR Jon Ross. Here’s some information off of his NFL.com profile:

Has home-run gear to yank the top off of defenses. Vertical speed demands respect and creates open throws underneath…Hands are generally solid…Natural ball-tracker who locates the deep ball early and watches it…Has returned at least one kickoff for a touchdown in each of his three years at Washington.
 Of course he has some weaknesses:
Undersized with below-average play strength. Struggled to get into his routes cleanly and impact the game against the physical cornerbacks at Alabama…Has had a major injury to both knees. The long-term health of both knees will be a concern that has to be answered at the combine.

For the Bengals, this means there is now someone to take the pressure off A.J. Green. For the Steelers, it sounds like the recipe to defeat Tom Brady and the Pats is going to get some practice when playing the Bengals. The Steelers’ secondary is just going to have to get more physical.

The Browns also have a second pick (No. 12) as a result of a trade with Philadelphia last year. There are a ton of highly rated players on the board, now that the Chiefs traded up to No. 10 to take yet another flawed quarterback. He supposedly has the best arm in the draft, though, so perhaps they can graft it onto Alex Smith.

So who did the Browns pick? No one. They traded with the Texans instead. Who will probably take another quarterback… And in fact they took Deshaun Watson. After the trade for Brock Osweiler, the Browns have Houston’s first two picks next year.

In the meantime, I’m guessing the Browns are getting another boatload of picks. Apparently they took a leaf out of Bill Belichick’s pre-2013 or so strategy. They now have the 25th pick from Houston, unless, of course, they trade down yet again. So it’s on to the Baltimore Ravens, who have the 16th pick.

Still on the board is DE Jonathan Allen, the 3rd-rated player in the draft, as well as TE O. J. Howard and LB Reuben Foster. So who did they actually take? CB Marlon Humphrey. This is perhaps a bit of a surprise, as it seems as if there are better players left on the board. Here’s what Lance Zierlein saidHis NFL comparison, BTW, was Jimmy Smith, so maybe this makes the pick more comprehensible:

Talented height-weight-speed prospect who comes from NFL bloodlines. Might need time for his technique to catch up with his traits. Coverage inconsistencies could cause him to struggle against quality competition early on, but his mental makeup and recovery talent should help him pull through. Has the instincts and run-support skills to become an early starter for a zone-cover defense.

Here’s what really fascinated me, though – this quote was from the “scouting director for AFC team:”
“There are some things on tape that really worry you. If he has trouble playing the long ball it is going to be bombs away against him and his team might have to change how they cover because of that. Those issues usually don’t go away.” 
Hmm. Well, this is leaving some nice players for the Steelers, or so we can hope.
Next up, the Browns yet again. And they picked Jabrill Peppers, a safety who is around the ball all the time but somehow only has one career interception. Because of his sample at the combine, Peppers is also already in the NFL substance abuse program, although the sample was dilute rather than positive. I would have been pretty gun-shy about potential drug issues after what they have gone through with Josh Gordon, but this is scarcely on the same level. Here’s Zierlein’s take:
Athletic and fluid in space with desired change of direction talent. Moves with the changing flow of a play. Willing to sacrifice body to honor contain against run. Jack of all trades. Can play slot, safety or linebacker in sub-packages in any given game. Won’t hesitate to race downhill once he diagnoses run. Hits with as much force as he can muster. Has big closing burst. Runs plays down from sideline to sideline. Able to knife into gaps and make tackles for losses or disrupt runs. Has man cover talent and is physical enough to handle most tight ends. Has enough quickness to match receivers. Aggressively re-routes receivers. Capable blitzer who buzzes in from all angles. Electric return man with ability to charge up crowd and his own sideline with big kick or punt return. Has experience carrying and catching the ball and as wildcat quarterback. Could offer red-zone flexibility on offense.

Zierlein called him the “ultimate Swiss army knife.”

So who’s left for the Steelers? A whole lot of guys. Some of the guys who were mocked to the Steelers who are gone are Takk McKinley and Peppers. But some highly-rated players are left as of Pick No. 28 – TE David Njoku and DE Taco Charlton, who would definitely been in the running for my All-Pro Names 1st rounder if I thought there was a chance of making it.

And of course he didn’t, because the Cowboys just took him. But LB Reuben Foster is still on the board, and he’s a really interesting prospect, considering the Steelers’ seeming emphasis on speed on the defense. DE Tim Williams is also there. Two picks to go, and it is looking like a highly-rated guy will be left for the Black and Gold!

And wouldn’t you know it – Cleveland traded up to take my All-Pro Names pick, David Njoku. I hate to think of him heading up to the Factory of Sadness. And of course it will be even worse if they aren’t the Factory of Sadness any more…

So the pick is in. Roger Goodell gave a short but moving tribute to Dan Rooney, and then Franco Harris and Jerome Bettis also spoke about Mr. Rooney. This, I would guess, is practically unprecedented.

With the 30th pick of the 2017 draft, the Steelers take — T. J. Watt. I nailed it! Bucky Brooks gave it a B+, and Lance Zierlein thinks he is a “second round talent.” That said, he felt PIT is a good fit for him. We’ll see about your pessimism, gentlemen…

Since I covered Watt in Momma’s Mock Draft, I’m going to let myself go to bed now. I’m sure I’ll be writing a lot about this young man in the days to come.


  • YES!! TJ Watt. I called it yesterday, and I hope I’m right about him. If he plays anything like his brother, I’ll be thrilled.


    • I’m thrilled as well, obviously. It’s been interesting to see how differently he is viewed by different commentators, but I think he and Ryan Shazier will be scary together.


  • This draft is so deep that the Steelers understood that it would be criminally insane to make a big trade up on day one – like the Bears did – especially with all the EDGE rushers and DB’s. And, especially with the run on offensive players in the first half of the first round, there was no need to panic. They let the draft come to them, and went after what they always go after: the BPA at a Position of Need. It was Watt, and they loved him. Once again, when it was their turn, they didn’t waste any time and made their pick right away. Watt is so strong on technique, they are likely to be able to plug him in right away. So long as he stays healthy..

    Day One was easy. Sit. Wait. Let it come to you. BPA at PON.

    Day Two will tell us the story of this draft. Two rounds, three picks. This draft has 100 to 150 players who have first or second round talent. It’s that deep. Biggest need is a solid CB of decent size who excels in man-to-man coverage. THIS is the time when you consider trading up a couple of spots if the guy you really want is sitting there and you don’t want to lose him.

    The Steelers, thankfully, are not in a “fill the cart” situation, like some teams are. The bottom of the roster is already pretty solid, and there’s a greater need for a couple of quality players than there is for depth. You certainly don’t have a great need for additional offensive linemen, for example. So you have the flexibility to trade lower round picks – or even that second pick in round three – to move up and grab that difference-making DB when you can. Trading up in first round can cost you an arm and a leg. Trading up in the second or third round, not so much.

    Of course, Tomlin remembers how he was salivating while waiting for Revis, only to see the Jets trade up and take him one pick ahead of the Steelers. Tomlin broke into the NFL as a DB coach for Tampa and defensive is his passion. He’s not going to do anything stupid and give up the ranch, but I don’t see him waiting for the second round to come to him. He’s gonna look to trade up tonight. Obviously.


  • cold_old_steelers_fan

    I love the T.J. Watt pick. For awhile I was dreaming of Howard falling to us but that would have been like getting a unicorn for Xmas when all I asked for was a pony.

    My only desires for the 2nd day of the draft is that we don’t trade away any of next year’s picks for a player we are taking this year and that we don’t draft a donkey or rented mule, mistaking it for another pony. There are lots of good players out there. No need to take a dud.


  • Very happy with the pick of Watt. Fans need to be careful about their expectations of him. He hasnt always played linebacker. He has plenty of room to grow. We need to give him some time.

    Browns had an excellent day one…..they are on the rise.


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