2018 NFL Draft Needs by Team: AFC North
Spend any amount of time in the fantasy football community or just absorbing daily NFL news and you’ll know that the entire focus for football fans is the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft, which has become one of the most important and highly anticipated sports annual sports events. Football fans want to know who their favorite club is going to be adding and fantasy football players obsess over the next wave of rookie talent that is about to enter the league. The NFL Draft has genuinely become a must-see event full of drama and anticipation.
Draft Picks: No. 16, No. 52, No. 83, No. 118, No. 154, No. 190, No. 215
Team Needs: WR, TE, OL, ILB, QB
The Ravens used to be on of the most astute drafting teams in football as Ozzie Newsome always seemed to add stellar defensive talent that was often overlooked. But lately, Newsome has struggled to find the same kind of impact players and just can’t seem to land a quality wide receiver, so veterans Michael Crabtree and John Brown were signed to shore up the position. The 2018 WR class isn’t considered to be particularly strong, so tight end, offensive tackle, or pass rusher is also highly likely to be a focus for Newsome in the middle of the first round.
There are some solid tight end options in the 2018 draft class, but the top-tier is mostly field-stretching receiver types. While that would be fine for a team desperate to add pass-catching playmakers, a tight end that could also help line up in-line and beef up a sagging offensive line would be ideal. Baltimore’s current depth chart of Nick Boyle, Maxx Williams, and Vince Mayle leaves a lot to be desired.
Ryan Jensen was the No. 9 ranked center in the NFL last season according to Pro Football Focus, so his loss will be a big problem for a Ravens’ O-line that was solid. There’s a good chance that no offensive tackles will be selected in the top 15 of this draft, so if Newsome likes any of the incoming rookies, the Ravens could have their choice of the best player available at a prominent position of need.
Getting back to the basics and adding an impact player to bolster the front seven also makes a lot of sense for the Ravens, who could add to a position of strength. A linebacker that could help out in coverage would be ideal.
Don’t discount the Ravens looking at the quarterbacks in this class. Joe Flacco has been a consistently limited option and just turned 33. Newsome just brought in Robert Griffin III, who wasn’t even in the league last season, to act as the backup, but the Ravens could use an infusion of youth, and this strong class of passers could provide a solution for the future.
Draft Picks: No. 21 (via BUF), No. 46, No. 77, No. 100, No. 112, No. 151, No. 158 (via BUF), No. 170, No. 249 (via NE), No. 252, No. 253
Team Needs: OT, LB, C/G, DB
Cincinnati’s front five played poorly, allowing 41 sacks and ranking 24th in run blocking in 2017. The Bengals acquired Cordy Glenn from the Bills by swapping first rounders but could still use an upgrade at right tackle, where Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi struggled.
Much-maligned star linebacker Vontaze Burfict is facing a four-game PED ban, just the latest incident or absence during his checkered history in the league. The Bengals could certainly use an upgrade on the strong side or a versatile player who could play the weak side when Burfict is out of the lineup.
Expect Marvin Lewis to make significant changes to Cincinnati’s offensive line, regardless of position. At 21, any tackle or interior blocker is an option, which would likely cause a shift after Cordy Glenn takes over as the presumed left tackle. There are some quality centers and guards in this incoming class, so expect Lewis and Duke Tobin to do their due diligence up front.
An upgrade in the secondary is also a strong position of need for the Bengals and one they’ll likely explore on Day Two or Day Three. With 11 picks in the draft, Cincinnati could be actively moving up and down the draft board throughout the weekend.
Players to Target: Will Hernandez (OG), Kolton Miller (OT), Billy Price (C), Leighton Vander Esch (LB), Jaire Alexander (CB), Justin Reid (S), Rashaan Evans (LB), Isaiah Wynn (OG), Orlando Brown (OT)
Draft Picks: No. 1, No. 4 (via HOU), No. 33, No. 35 (via HOU), No. 64 (via PHI), No. 114 (via GB), No. 150 (via GB), No. 175, No. 205 (via NE)
Team Needs: QB, OT, CB, LB
It’s almost unanimous that the Browns are going to take a quarterback with the first overall pick, a line of thinking that has been fortified by the trading away of DeShone Kizer and Kevin Hogan. Another trade for contract-year quarterback Tyrod Taylor gives the Browns a dependable veteran and allows a “red shirt” grooming season for the No. 1 pick should the club choose. The only question is will the Browns go the safe route with Sam Darnold, or reach for the upside of a Baker Mayfield or Josh Allen?
Cleveland’s analytics-driven rebuild will be a fascinating project to see develop over the coming years. The Browns mostly bought Houston’s first-round pick, which turned out to be a significant investment as the Texans tanked and the new Cleveland regime has two picks inside the top-four. New GM John Dorsey could go in a number directions at four, including outside of their “needs” by merely selecting the best available player, a list that would include immediate impact starters like RB Saquon Barkley, DE Bradley Chubb, or defensive backs Derwin James or Denzel Ward.
In addition to the picks at 1.01 and 1.04, the Browns have also accumulated additional draft capital that consists of four picks in the top 35. If the club plays their cards well, they could add four immediate impact staters, setting them up for a rebuild that could be swift and effective. Several quality linebackers, defensive backs, and offensive lineman are expected to be available at or near the top of the second, which would help the Browns fill big holes in their roster. The Browns can control this draft if they’re willing to listen to offers to move down or just stay put and make solid picks, but betting on this franchise to pull off competent decisions has been a risky proposition.
Draft Picks: No. 28, No. 60, No. 92, No. 148 (via SF), No. 165, No. 220 (via NYG), No. 246
Team Needs: ILB, S, RB, EDGE, WR
Despite regularly drafting deep in the first round, the Steelers are adept at sitting back and adding quality defensive players that always seem to fall into their laps. The 2018 NFL Draft could set up that way again as Pittsburgh’s needs coincide with players currently projected to be on the board at 28. The loss of Ryan Shazier makes linebacker a big need for the Steelers, and several intriguing options are expected to potentially be available, including Rashaan Evans, Harold Landry, and Leighton Vader Esch.
In addition to the front seven, the Steelers also do an excellent job adding quality defensive backs that turn into longtime starters. The Steelers parted ways with both Mike Mitchell and Robert Golden and signed Morgan Burnett and Sean Davis but could still use an infusion of youth and talent on the back end.
As tremendous as RB Le’Veon Bell has been, the Steelers don’t have a lot of depth behind their star tailback and have managed to cause a bit of an impasse with the franchise tag. The 2018 running back class is considered one of the strongest groups in the draft, and it would not be a surprise to see Pittsburgh spend an early pick on a potential replacement who would be much cheaper.
A versatile defensive lineman or linebacker who can help out in run support also makes sense for the Steelers. Pittsburgh led the NFL in adjusted sack rate last season but struggled against the run. It also wouldn’t be a shock to see the club explore pass-catching depth in the first three rounds, which could include a wideout of tight end.