Former NFL player and scout Bucky Brooks is performing a division-by-division assessment of the 2016 NFL Draft, spotlighting notable picks and handing out grades for each team. Below is his review of the AFC North. (NOTE: Click on the tabs to see other divisional breakdowns.)
The Bengals grabbed an ideal complementary receiver to pair with A.J. Green on the perimeter. Boyd is an exceptional playmaker with strong hands and superb ball skills. Yet, it is his versatility and running skills that could make him a dangerous weapon in the Bengals' dynamic offense. Boyd has a knack for turning short passes into big gains, but he also flashes the toughness and courage to serve as a "chain mover" over the middle of the field. Considering how important the WR2 role is in the Bengals' offense, Boyd's acquisition is a major play for Marvin Lewis' squad.
Hue Jackson has a sterling reputation as a quarterback developer, but his latest project has raised eyebrows across the NFL. While Kessler is lauded for his leadership skills and impressive intangibles, there are questions about his ability to make tightrope throws in inclement conditions. Granted, plenty of "dink and dunk" passers (see: Chad Pennington) have succeeded in the NFL, but Kessler must develop into an excellent distributor and anticipation thrower to overcome his arm-strength deficiencies to if he is to be a cold-weather playmaker. Jackson will certainly craft an offense that plays to his strengths, but the USC standout must master the nuances of the position to thrive as a starter.
The Steelers grabbed one of the best interior pass rushers in the draft with the selection of Hargrave on Day 2. The South Carolina State product is a disruptive force as a pass rusher due to his exceptional first-step quickness and agility. Hargrave has a killer spin move that overwhelms unsuspecting offensive guards, which makes him a dangerous weapon as an interior defender on passing downs. Most importantly, he displays a non-stop motor and relentless spirit that should help him knock down quarterbacks consistently in key situations.
NOTE: Draft classes are ranked from best to worst within the division.
» Round 1: (No. 15 overall) Corey Coleman, WR.
» Round 2: (32) Emmanuel Ogbah, DE.
» Round 3: (65) Carl Nassib, DE; (76) Shon Coleman, OT; (93) Cody Kessler, QB.
» Round 4: (99) Joe Schobert, OLB; (114) Ricardo Louis, WR; (129) Derrick Kindred, FS; (138) Seth Devalve, TE.
» Round 5: (154) Jordan Payton, WR; (168) Spencer Drango, OG; (172) Rashard Higgins, WR; (173) Trey Caldwell, DB.
» Round 7: (250) Scooby Wright III, ILB.
The Browns' analytical approach has been met with skepticism in league circles, but the philosophy of building through the draft has been the preferred model of the most successful franchises in the NFL. Thus, the team's decision to accumulate and use 14 picks in the 2016 NFL Draft could help return it to prominence in a few years. On offense, the Browns addressed their biggest needs (pass catchers and playmakers) by selecting four wide receivers and a tight end. Corey Coleman will serve as the team's WR1, but Ricardo Louis, Jordan Payton and Rashard Higgins will compete for playing time as complementary receivers on the perimeter. The Browns surprised many scouts and observers with the selection of Cody Kessler, as I mentioned earlier. The former USC Trojan lacks an elite arm, but Hue Jackson values his intangibles and winning pedigree. He will have a chance to vie for the QB1 job against long odds. On defense, the Browns doubled down on a pair of pass rushers with a proven track record for getting to the quarterback. Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib are talented rushers with the skills to wreak havoc off the edges. GRADE: B+
» Round 1: (No. 6 overall) Ronnie Stanley, OT.
» Round 2: (42) Kamalei Correa, DE.
» Round 3: (70) Bronson Kaufusi, DE.
» Round 4: (104) Tavon Young, CB; (107) Chris Moore, WR; (130) Alex Lewis, OT; (132) Willie Henry, DT; (134) Kenneth Dixon, RB.
» Round 5: (146) Matt Judon, DE.
» Round 6: (182) Keenan Reynolds, RB; (209) Maurice Canady, CB.
Ozzie Newsome has consistently struck gold on draft day throughout his tenure with the Ravens. The astute evaluator appeared to knock it out of the park again with his 2016 draft haul. Although some critics questioned the selection of Ronnie Stanley with Laremy Tunsil on the board, plenty of teams rated the Notre Dame standout as a better run-blocker, and that could've been the deciding factor in the debate. Kenneth Dixon is a sleeper prospect to watch as a potential RB2 for the Ravens. The shifty playmaker is a talented runner, but his pass-catching skills could make him a star in a retooled offense. On defense, the Ravens grabbed a versatile hybrid edge defender with a non-stop motor in Kamalei Correa. The Boise State star is an athletic rusher with the speed and quickness to create chaos off the edges. Bronson Kaufusi and Matt Judon will join the rotation as complementary run/pass defenders. Tavon Young might be the best nickel corner in the draft. He will upgrade the Ravens' secondary with his instincts, awareness and ball skills on the perimeter. GRADE: B+
The Bengals have assembled one of the most talented rosters in the NFL by consistently adding blue-chip players to the team on draft day. The trend will certainly continue, with the 2016 class featuring a number of intriguing playmakers on both sides of the ball. On defense, the addition of William Jackson III and Nick Vigil gives the team a pair of future starters in the back seven. Jackson, in particular, is a versatile cover corner with the instincts to create turnovers on the perimeter. Andrew Billings was a steal on Day 3. The powerful nose tackle displays a rare combination of size, strength and athleticism as a run defender. If he plays to his potential, he could be a destructive force in the middle for the Bengals. On offense, the addition of Tyler Boyd gives the team a solid WR2 to place opposite A.J. Green, as I mentioned earlier. The sticky pass catcher shows impressive running skills in the open field, which could make him a dangerous weapon in the Bengals' "catch and run" offense. GRADE: B
Mike Tomlin is intent on retooling the Steelers' defense with athletic defenders who have a strong nose for the ball. The Steelers' draft haul reflects that philosophy, with a number of prospects possessing exceptional instincts, awareness and nasty attitudes. Artie Burns and Sean Davis should immediately upgrade the secondary with their ball-hawking skills. Each player possesses the footwork, athleticism and instincts to thrive in a zone-based system that places a premium on keeping vision on the quarterback. Javon Hargrave is an interior pass rusher with a knack for knocking the quarterback down. He should add some sizzle to the Steelers' pass rush as an inside playmaker. Keep an eye on Tyler Matakevich, a tackling machine with exceptional instincts and awareness. He could make the squad and contribute as a special teams ace. GRADE: B