In 2016, the carousel that is the AFC North finished with the Steelers on top. It was their second division title in the last three years, but make no mistake, in any given year, three of the four teams always seem to be in contention. The Bengals are just one year removed from being crowned division champs, while the Ravens 2012 division title and subsequent Super Bowl victory don’t feel like too far off, distant, memories either. Having explained the competitive and contending nature of the teams in this division, it should be noted however that not only are these rosters far from flawless, but the division also contains the Browns.

These factors make the draft this April of the utmost importance for this division, especially considering the Bengals and Browns have a whopping 22 selections combined.

Pittsburgh will be looking to improve defensively to the point of matching their top-ranked offense, while Baltimore will also be looking to add defensive playmakers to reclaim their former smash mouth identity. The Bengals will be looking to dust themselves off from an injury riddled 6-9-1 finish to 2016, while the Browns can only improve from their mere single victory campaign last season.

Speaking of the Browns, pictured right is the current face of what people believe is a new strategy towards franchise building in Cleveland. Paul DePodesta used "Moneyball" to bring the low butgeted Oakland A's to prominenece in the early 2000's, but the Browns historical nature of doldrum dwelling and the NFL as a league are totally different animals. With a grand total of 11 picks, including five in the top-100 and the number one overall, he certainly has his work cut out for him. Now without further ado...

The AFC North is now on the clock…

Baltimore Ravens

2016 Record: 8-8

2017 Draft Picks: 16, 47, 74, 78, 122, 159, 186

2016 was the fourth consecutive season of mediocrity for the Ravens, as they once again failed to make it into, let alone any noise in, the playoffs. In hopes of turning fortunes around, the Ravens upgraded their roster this offseason, by not only adding starters Brandon Carr and Tony Jefferson to their defense, but also by trading defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan in order to move up in the draft. Considering this most recent move, clearly the Ravens view this as not only a talented draft, but also as one of critical importance…

Below I have narrowed down their top needs to the following positions in descending order, ranked by importance:

| Wide Receiver, Edge, Offensive Tackle, Cornerback, Inside Linebacker |

In my initial mock draft, I had the Ravens taking Haason Reddick – linebacker out of Temple – in the first round, however after comments that coach John Harbaugh made recently, I am beginning to second guess things…

“I’m very confident that Kamalei Correa can win the Will linebacker job…” said coach Harbaugh in regards to the suddenly vacant inside linebacker spot opposite C.J. Mosley. My belief was that the Ravens would look to upgrade this position in the draft, which is why I had them taking Reddick. However, they instead seem intent on giving second year player Kamalei Correa the chance to win the job. To bring my selection further into question, the reason that they felt Correa came along so slowly last season is because they tried to use him at too many different positions. Correa was used as both an inside backer and edge rusher, and while he has the skillset to do so, the Ravens felt that it was too much for a rookie to handle. Now my reasoning behind them drafting Reddick was so that they could do that very same thing – use him both inside and on the edge – however if they feel that it stunted Correa last season, then why would they make the same mistake again this season?

Based off of the Ravens roster needs, I assume that they will instead go BPA at on the edge, at wide receiver, or at corner. Likely the pick for them would be the best wideout on the board, however considering the fact that I have top-10 talented edge rusher Derek Barnett – a player whom I outlined last week in my Lions draft breakdown – falling in the first round, they would have no choice but to grab him.

For those who didn’t read last week, Barnett is the most accomplished pass rusher in this draft – even more so than projected first overall pick Myles Garrett. He holds the SEC record for most career sacks with 33 over three seasons, and his tape somehow is even more impressive than his numbers. While lacking combine athleticism, Barnett looks born to get after the quarterback. His ability to bend the edge and jump the snap is rare. The Ravens would be getting an incredible steal at 16.


Considering the Ravens dire need at receiver, it’s wideout or bust for them in the second round. Currently on the roster, the Ravens are actually set with athletically gifted/combine warriors at the wide receiver position, as their top two options include Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman. Considering this, I expect them to target a specific mold in wideout. Expect a productive, high-volume target to be on the agenda for Baltimore; a guy who can run routes well but has the height and build to make a living on the outside. Players of that caliber include JuJu Smith-Schuster – who I’ve outlined at length in previous iterations – Zay Jones, and Cooper Kupp. All three were incredibly productive at the collegiate level, are reliable hands catchers, and would properly compliment the receivers that the Ravens already have on the roster.


After losing starting right tackle Rick Wagner to free agency this offseason, there is no question that the Ravens will be looking towards the draft to address this vacancy. Considering they acquired an earlier third round selection after the Timmy Jernigan trade, taking a tackle or two in this draft would not be a bad idea. Ideally though, they will be looking for a player who is best suited on the right side. That means athletic run blockers will fit the prototype. Expect Taylor Moton, Antonio Garcia, and Roderick Johnson to get extended looks from the Ravens in the third round.

Now while it wouldn’t be crazy for them to take two tackles in this draft, it would be tough to believe them taking two with just four picks separating them. Instead, the Ravens would be best suited to look towards either the cornerback spot, or inside linebacker. Considering their overall lack of depth at the position, inside linebacker seems to be a more pressing need for the Ravens, despite the notion that they are going to give second year player Kamalei Correa a shot at starting this season. Players I like include Blair Brown, Anthony Walker, and Raekwon McMillan, particularly McMillan because his skillset best fits a 3-4/hybrid scheme in that he can play either mike or strong-side backer.

While Baltimore kicked around the idea of going cornerback in the first three rounds, they have to address the position in the fourth at the latest. Sure they added Brandon Carr this offseason, but more depth is certainly needed if the Ravens plan on building a competent secondary. Guys to keep an eye on include Howard Wilson, Jeremy Cutrer, Cameron Sutton, Shaquill Griffin, and Jalen Myrick. Myrick and Griffin are particularly good fits in Baltimore because while they are relatively undersized, their electric 40-times (4.28 and 4.38 respectively) and stickiness in man coverage make them both excellent fits in the Ravens currently vacant slot corner position.


With their remaining late-round selections, the Ravens would obviously be wise to add depth. Specifically they should target another offensive lineman, likely a guard, but another tackle wouldn’t be bad either. A developmental wideout would also be nice; think Noah Brown out of Ohio State, or Malachi Dupree out of LSU. And lastly the Ravens would be wise to target another tight end/move blocker/receiver. By that I mean they should look to address their vacant fullback position that was critically important to how they ran offense last season with Kyle Juszczyk.

Cincinnati Bengals

2016 Record: 6-9-1

2017 Draft Picks: 9, 41, 73, 116, 138, 153, 176, 193, 217, 227, 251

After four straight seasons of double-digit wins, the Bengals crashed and burned in 2016, failing to make the playoffs or even get their record to .500. This is the culmination of a slew of offseason losses in back-to-back seasons, as one of the league’s former best rosters now seemingly has ample holes. Luckily for the Bengals, they possess a whopping 11 picks in this draft and will look to address their suddenly porous depth chart…

Below I have narrowed down their top needs to the following positions in descending order, ranked by importance:

| Linebacker, Offensive Tackle, Offensive Guard, Wide Receiver, Edge, Defensive Tackle |

Here’s the Bengals current starting linebackers: Marquis Flowers, Kevin Minter, and Vontaze Burfict. While Burfict is one hell of a player, Minter and Flowers hardly possess NFL level talent. Because of this, I mocked the Bengals the best linebacker in the draft, who also happens to be the best player on the board at their selection – Reuben Foster out of Alabama.

Serving as the leader of one of the best defenses in the history of college football; you should have a pretty good idea of what Foster brings to the table. He’s big, strong, fast, instinctive, and mean. The tone setter for an entire defense and one of the hardest hitters I have ever scouted. He’s a true sideline-to-sideline linebacker, whose nastiness would perfectly pair with the mean streak of Vontaze Burfict. Don’t believe me, watch the video below… This guy’s play speed just looks to be faster than everyone else and his consistent blindside hit power is further proof of that.

It wasn’t too long ago that the Bengals had one of the better offensive lines in football, however, after this offseason of losing starters Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler, they may potentially enter 2017 with one of the worst. Right now they are looking down the barrel of three new starting offensive linemen, none of whom have proven themselves in the NFL yet. Targeting both tackles and guards in the second round makes sense because the Bengals can use upgrades and/or depth all across the line. Players to keep in mind include Alabama’s Cam Robinson, Western Michigan’s Taylor Moton, Dan Feeney out of Indiana, and Dion Dawkins out of Temple.

In the third round, another offensive lineman wouldn’t be out of the question, however the Bengals would probably be best served going after a wideout because their offense just didn’t run the same after losing both Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones last offseason. Ideally an outside target with speed a la Chris Godwin out of Penn State or Josh Malone out of Tennessee would be the best for Cincinnati, as that type of skillset would help take some attention off of A.J. Green.

Now, from here on out, you can consider this the sweet spot of the draft for the Bengals, as they have two picks in each of the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh rounds. Be prepared to have a lot of names thrown at you.

A wise strategy going forward in each round for Cincy would be to take not only the best players available on the board, but to split up the rounds by taking one “sure thing” and one “high potential guy” in each. In the fourth, I like their chances of addressing the defensive line, as Michael Johnson’s advanced age is dying to be upgraded over. The most sure thing available in this range is probably Texas A&M’s Daeshon Hall, while the highest potential player is Villanova’s freakish edge rusher, Tanoh Kpassagnon.

On to the fifth, and the Bengals still need to address their interior defensive line. The more complete player available in this range is Vincent Taylor out of Oklahoma State, while the highest potential player fitting the bill here is Clemson’s Carlos Watkins, who registered 10.5 sacks last season and seems to just be finally realizing his football potential.

With their final four selections, the Bengals would be wise to add some much needed depth throughout the rest of their roster. Picking based off of need, another offensive lineman would be in play, as would another wide receiver. Here’s just a list of late round players that I like who should be available with any of the Bengals remaining four selections: (WR) Stacey Coley – Miami, (OT) Dan Skipper – Arkansas, (Edge) Hunter Dimick – Utah, (WR) K.D. Cannon – Baylor, (G) Aviante Collins – TCU.

Cleveland Browns

2016 Record: 1-15

2017 Draft Picks: 1, 12, 33, 52, 65, 108, 145, 175, 181, 185, 188

Ahhh Cleveland; the train wreck you’ve all been waiting for. It seems like they have been picking in the top-five for the better part of the last 20 years, but still somehow they have yet to get it right. This season with 11 draft picks, five of which are in the top-100, and the “Moneyball” team running the show, I half expect something magical to happen…

Below I have narrowed down their top needs to the following positions in descending order, ranked by importance:

| Quarterback, Linebacker, Edge, Safety, Cornerback, Rest of Roster |

As you can see, the Browns have a ton of holes, which is to be expected when you only win one game the year prior, so this affords them the opportunity to use the number one selection on the best player in the draft. Without much question, that player is Myles Garrett, as his size/speed/production trifecta puts him head and shoulders above the rest of the 2017 class. He’s a player who I outlined in length in both of my mock drafts, so I will spare you here, but to put in the simplest of terms though; the guy is a monster athlete and proven pass rusher with sky high potential.

Considering their still glaring roster holes, the Browns can go in a variety of directions with the 12th overall pick. Quarterback is definitely still in play, however I have a gut feeling that this regime will wait one more season before taking a first round signal caller. In my current mock I again have the Browns letting the board speak for itself (aside from taking another edge rusher in Derek Barnett) as Haason Reddick’s crazy athleticism, versatility, and sheer talent will be too much to pass up on with their second first round pick. Reddick has the skillset to play as a will linebacker in the Browns newfound 4-3 defense, while his athleticism and positional versatility allows him to potentially serve as one of the better situational pass rushers in the game. Yet another defensive talent for newly named DC Gregg Williams to mold.

On to the second round and any position is still in play for Cleveland. A good combination with their two second rounders would be an offensive stack. Think a quarterback and receiver connection. Either Patrick Mahomes or DeShone Kizer should still be available quarterbacks at the very beginning of the round, while in the late second wide receiver Carlos Henderson – who’s playmaking ability and pound-for-pound toughness have drawn Antonio Brown comparisons – would be a perfect fit in any offense.

Moving along to the third now and it’s back to defense, particularly in the secondary, as either corner or safety should be targeted with their 65th overall selection. Good fits include (CB) Cordrea Tankersley – Clemson, (CB) Teez Tabor – Florida, (CB) Sidney Jones – Washington, (S/CB) Desmond King – Iowa, and (S) Marcus Maye – Florida.

With their final five picks, the Browns will look to fill out the rest of their bottom of the barrel roster. While there are some late round targets that should fit them well, it is hard to pinpoint who the team will target that far down the line considering their abundance of needs. To narrow it down, tight end should still be addressed. Later round options include Jonnu Smith and Jeremy Sprinkle. Interior defensive line is another area of need with potential late round fits including Charles Walker out of Oklahoma, Davon Godchaux out of LSU, and Treyvon Hester out of Toledo. Lastly, while they heavily upgraded the offensive line this offseason, Joe Thomas isn’t getting any younger, so a potential project tackle should be looked at towards the end of the sixth round. My favorite in that department is towering 6-foot-10 tackle Dan Skipper out of Arkansas.

Pittsburgh Steelers

2016 Record: 11-5

2017 Draft Picks: 30, 62, 94, 105, 135, 173, 213, 248

The Steelers reclaimed their top spot in the division last season, but it wasn’t easy. Their defensive deficiencies forced their offense – particularly Big Ben – to carry them, putting a tremendous stress on the veteran QB’s body. Last season took such a toll that it wasn’t until last night that Roethlisberger officially came out and said that he was coming back for the 2017 season. If you aren’t too sharp, and are missing what I’m laying out for you here, I’ll put it in plainer terms – the Steelers are going to go defense early and often in this draft.

Below I have narrowed down their top needs to the following positions in descending order, ranked by importance:

| Edge, Cornerback, Linebacker, Safety, Defensive Line, Quarterback, Wide Receiver, Running Back |

With edge being their top need, it was edge in which I mocked them, as Charles Harris comes off the board at 30th overall in the first round. Harris is a twitched up right end, who can stand up and attack the quarterback if needed to in a 3-4 scheme. That is exactly what he will do for the Steelers, as his finesse pass rushing will bookend the power of Bud Dupree. In the video below, look out for Harris’ ability to capture the edge and get an excellent initial burst off the snap. That is what makes him a first round caliber player.

Pittsburgh joins a long list of teams that will be looking for cornerback help in the second round of this draft. I have listed the names in this range several times over now, but here again are some potential cornerback fits for the Black and Yellow in the second round: Fabian Moreau, Chidobe Awuzie, Adoree Jackson, Teez Tabor, Cordrea Tankersley, and so on…

After losing Lawrence Timmons to free agency this offseason, the Steelers would be wise to address the inside linebacker position by the third round at the latest. Florida’s Alex Anzalone comes to mind as a potential replacement inside, as does LSU’s Duke Riley. Anzalone is more of the well-built, downhill, smash mouth linebacker, while Riley is a read-and-react player with excellent speed and cover skills. Two very different players, but both prototypes, in the third round nonetheless.

It is finally in the fourth round that I could see Pittsburgh giving their offense some attention. Running back and wide receiver are pretty glaring needs because while they have stars at the positions, the Steelers are severely lacking depth at both spots. Having said all of this though, it shouldn’t be ignored that Ben Roethlisberger seriously mulled retirement this offseason. Considering this, Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya makes a ton of sense for Pittsburgh because he is not only going to fill a position of need, but is also my third highest rated quarterback in the entire draft. Getting him in the fourth would bear excellent value.

The fifth round seems to be a running back sweet spot in this draft, so the Steelers should take notice. Clemson tailback Wayne Gallman likely fits the best for Pittsburgh, because while he is not as good as say a guy like Samajae Perine, Gallman possesses traits that compliment Le’Veon Bell just as well. Essentially, Gallman is a decisive, downhill runner, with tons of momentum and conviction behind his pads; certainly a change of pace from the patience and creativity of Bell.

Image result for wayne gallman gif

With their final two picks, the Steelers would have to address their defensive line holes and potential void at wide receiver, Martavis Bryant pending. Fits include (DT) DeAngelo Brown – Louisville, (DL) Ryan Glasgow – Michigan, (WR) Stacey Coley – Miami (hopefully to pair with Kaaya), and (WR) Damore’ea Stringfellow – Ole Miss.


I am dedicating this section to not necessarily the likeliest of scenarios, however I plan on keeping it as realistic as possible. Essentially I want to give you an idea of what selection could end up being the most fantasy impactful for the 2017 season for each team in the division. It doesn’t have to be someone that I have discussed for the team above, but rather a realistic scenario in which the team picks a player who would be a fantasy ringer for 2017.

Baltimore Ravens

For the Ravens, the best way for them to get a fantasy star in 2017 would be to flip me the middle finger and go wide receiver in the first instead of defense. At 16th overall, I still have blazing fast deep threat John Ross and towering playmaker Mike Williams on the board. Either paired with Joe Flacco would be dangerous, however considering Flacco’s unmatched arm strength and Ross’ record-breaking speed, I believe that Ross would end up having the biggest fantasy impact with the Ravens in 2017 and beyond.

Cincinnati Bengals

If Bengals fans want a playmaking fantasy rookie in 2017, their team too would have to go against my wishes and take an offensive player in the first round. Wide receiver seems to be a common mock draft scenario across other websites, so again, either Ross or Williams would be the ones making a fantasy impact from the 9th overall position.

Cleveland Browns

This could go in one of two, or even two of two directions… A) if the Browns follow my plan and take whatever QB is available at the beginning of the second round, then they have a shot at making a huge 2017 fantasy impact. These names include as listed before, Patrick Mahomes and DeShone Kizer. B) I have seen various names floating around the Browns 12th overall pick in other mocks, and while most are either quarterback or defense, I have seen some intriguing offensive playmakers listed. Most intriguing of all include O.J. Howard and Dalvin Cook. Cook would obviously make the bigger and more immediate impact, however Howard’s presence could transform this offense with Hue Jackson calling the shots.

Pittsburgh Steelers

I am committed to the idea that Pittsburgh will focus on defense early, leaving Wayne Gallman as the likeliest of their potential draft class to make an immediate fantasy impact. As described, Gallman’s decisive running style could earn him some goal line touches, which are equivalent to fantasy gold.