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AFC North draft grades: Ozzie Newsome rocks last Ravens class

Why provide instant grades on the selections of prospects who have yet to take an NFL snap? Well, you're reading this, aren't you? Considering the makeup of every roster and the factors surrounding each pick, Gennaro Filice and Nick Shook attempt a division-by-division assessment of the 2018 NFL Draft. Below is Nick's review of the AFC North.


BEST PICK: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Cleveland Browns, Round 1, No. 4 overall

I spent the pre-draft process getting to know Ward through our Path to the Draft series, and I can confidently say the Browns got a good one in the defensive back. Ward's film shows a corner who consistently blankets receivers, excels in one-on-one situations, has great ball skills and also hits at a weight much higher than he's listed. The Northeast Ohio native flourished at Ohio State while also being forced to grow up faster than usual after his father's sudden passing in 2016. The consensus All-American joins a revamped defensive backfield that should give edge rushers Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah more time to get to the quarterback, which will only bode well for Cleveland's defense.

MOST SURPRISING PICK: Terrell Edmunds, S, Virginia Tech
Pittsburgh Steelers, Round 1, No. 28 overall

Edmunds was projected to go a round later, but with a need at safety, Pittsburgh decided to buck convention and take him at No. 28. The pick could be deemed a reach immediately, but it might end up proving wise if the defensive back produces as his bloodline predicts (his father, Ferrell, played tight end in the NFL, his brother Tremaine was selected 16th overall by the Bills, and his other brother, Trey, plays for the Saints). Edmunds should stand as an upgrade over the departed Mike Mitchell while also learning behind free-agent acquisition Morgan Burnett.

BIGGEST SLEEPER: Orlando Brown, T, Oklahoma
Baltimore Ravens, Round 3, No. 83 overall

A couple of Pittsburgh's picks (WR James Washington, QB Mason Rudolph) and Cincinnati's selections (LB Malik Jefferson, DE Sam Hubbard) could fit in this space, but I'm instead going with the tackle who was a projected first-rounder before an abysmal showing at the NFL Scouting Combine sent him tumbling into the third round. He has the physical tools and tape to prove this pick worthwhile, as well as the legacy (his father, the late Orlando Brown Sr., played for the Ravens and Browns for many years). Should Brown continue to develop, he'll validate his selection by GM Ozzie Newsome, who knew his father very well from their days in Cleveland and Baltimore. He's also coming into an ideal situation across from Ronnie Stanley on a line that now has bookend tackles to protect Joe Flacco (and, eventually, Lamar Jackson).


NOTE: Draft classes are ranked from best to worst within the division.

Rank 1
Baltimore Ravens

» Round 1: (No. 25 overall) Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina; (32) Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville.

» Round 3: (83) Orlando Brown, T, Oklahoma; (86) Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma.

» Round 4: (118) Anthony Averett, CB, Alabama; (122) Kenny Young, LB, UCLA; (132) Jaleel Scott, WR, New Mexico State.

» Round 5: (162) Jordan Lasley, WR, UCLA.

» Round 6: (190) DeShon Elliott, S, Texas; (212) Greg Senat, T, Wagner; (215) Bradley Bozeman, C, Alabama.

» Round 7: (238) Zach Sieler, DE, Ferris State.

Ozzie Newsome went out with a bang in his final draft as Ravens GM. The longtime personnel man addressed three major needs, grabbing a balanced tight end in Hurst who can block and catch passes and then adding a pure pass-catcher in Andrews two rounds later to immediately form a dangerous duo at the position. In between, he added a potential face of the future when he selected Jackson at No. 32, and he found a tackle who, though he fell because of a bad combine, carries a ton of upside (and some history with the team). Newsome nailed his first four picks (I'm a big Andrews fan; he plays with a style similar to that of the Giants' Evan Engram) and then used later-round picks to address the receiver position with two players who carry plenty of potential. Lasley -- Josh Rosen's best target by a long shot at UCLA -- has pro talent, but teams didn't get a good look at him because he missed three games with a suspension. Newsome used additional late picks to add depth where his starters are beginning to age. Excellent farewell draft.

Rank T-2
Cleveland Browns

» Round 1: (No. 1 overall) Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma; (4) Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State.

» Round 2: (33) Austin Corbett, G, Nevada; (35) Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia.

» Round 3: (67) Chad Thomas, DE, Miami.

» Round 4: (105) Antonio Callaway, WR, Florida.

» Round 5: (150) Genard Avery, LB, Memphis.

» Round 6: (175) Damion Ratley, WR, Texas A&M; (188) Simeon Thomas, DB, Louisiana-Lafayette.

The last time Cleveland took a quarterback in the first round, it also selected a cornerback, and both of those selections were widely praised. Those two players ended up being Johnny Manziel and Justin Gilbert. We're not holding this against Mayfield or Ward, because, while some are split on the polarizing Mayfield, I can personally tell you Ward is a good kid ( read more about why here). He's also an excellent cover corner and the clear best corner in the draft; while he went higher than expected, it was not without merit. Kudos to the Browns for taking their guy, even with pass rusher Bradley Chubb still on the board. Beyond there, Cleveland found someone who I think will fit well at either guard or tackle (likely tackle) in Corbett, whose film is a treat to watch. Chubb will slide into a role similar to the one he manned at Georgia, albeit with a little bit more variety in terms of fellow backs, alongside Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson. Thomas stands to serve as a more athletic rotational edge rusher in a front four that's suddenly rather menacing. Where I dock Cleveland is for trading up to draft Callaway, who couldn't keep himself on the field due to troubles off it. But GM John Dorsey does not -- as he's shown with this draft -- give a damn what anyone outside the organization thinks.

Rank T-2
Cincinnati Bengals

» Round 1: (No. 21 overall) Billy Price, C, Ohio State.

» Round 2: (54) Jessie Bates, S, Wake Forest.

» Round 3: (77) Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State; (78) Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas.

» Round 4: (112) Mark Walton, RB, Miami.

» Round 5: (151) Davontae Harris, CB, Illinois State; (158) Andrew Brown, DT, Virginia; (170) Darius Phillips, CB, Western Michigan.

» Round 7: (249) Logan Woodside, CB, Toledo; (252) Rod Taylor, G, Mississippi; (253) Auden Tate, WR, Florida State.

A lot of this grade is based on the potential of the Bengals' first four picks, who all have a ton of upside. Price was about as reliable as possible at Ohio State in the interior, tying Pat Elflein (now with the Minnesota Vikings) for Ohio State's record with 55 straight starts. Though he tore his pectoral muscle while benching at the combine, his repair and recovery have gone well, and he's expected to contribute when the season arrives, shoring up what was a major weakness for the Bengals. Combined with the trade for Cordy Glenn, Cincinnati made great strides in addressing its line. Beyond Price, Bates will eventually take over at safety and has more upside as a pro than his brief college career showed. The most value lies in the selections of Hubbard and Jefferson, who each carry the potential to become major contributors in their second and third seasons and end up being great value picks. Woodside should serve as the ideal backup to Andy Dalton after the departure of AJ McCarron.

Rank 4
Pittsburgh Steelers

» Round 1: (No. 28 overall) Terrell Edmunds, S, Virginia Tech.

» Round 2: (60) James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State.

» Round 3: (76) Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State; (92) Chuks Okorafor, T, Western Michigan.

» Round 5: (148) Marcus Allen, S, Penn State; (165) Jaylen Samuels, RB, N.C. State.

» Round 7: (246) Joshua Frazier, DT, Alabama.

Pittsburgh's choice of Edmunds made history and also raised eyebrows, as it came much earlier than anticipated. Edmunds comes from a strong NFL lineage, though, and could prove the Steelers right in the long run. Washington is an immediate deep-threat replacement for Martavis Bryant (who was traded to the Raiders), and Rudolph is the successor to Ben Roethlisberger that Pittsburgh needed, even if it creates some drama in the short term. Okorafor doesn't have the most reliable tape, but he could develop into a solid tackle with the right tutoring under offensive line coach Mike Munchak. Allen adds safety depth for a team that spent its first pick on the position but also saw major turnover in the offseason. Though they're getting a B- now, this grade stands to improve tremendously if Rudolph ends up taking over at QB after the Roethlisberger era ends and Edmunds turns out to be a reliable starter.

Follow Nick Shook on Twitter @TheNickShook.

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