The 2016 NFL Draft is now in the books, meaning that teams now have the vast bulk of the ingredients in place that will help them make their rosters come September. The narratives are beginning to unfold about how each team will begin to take shape, and how the divisions will be competitive.
Every division has a story to tell, and the AFC North’s, with two non-playoff teams wheeling and dealing and accumulating picks, while two playoff teams sat tight, might for some interesting draft weekend discussions. Certainly, the picture of the AFC North is only just beginning to come into focus, but we do finally have something to see.
Obviously, the Pittsburgh Steelers, knowing that they had to put a premium on their early picks given the lack of natural selections in the fifth and sixth rounds, used their Day One and Day Two selections to address critical defensive needs, adding cornerback Artie Burns in the first round, safety Sean Davis in the second, and defensive tackle Javon Hargrave in the third.
All three should have a chance to contribute at some level this season, though Burns may have the most difficult path toward being a defensive contributor early. Hargrave could have the biggest impact as an immediate contributor at nose tackle and in spelling the ends in the nickel defense.
The Cleveland Browns kicked off their latest regime with a greater focus on analytics, trading back and acquiring a total of 14 draft picks, four of which they used on wide receivers, a critical need. Among them was first-rounder Corey Coleman, the first wide receiver off the board. Short of Travis Benjamin, the entire unit could be remade.
The Browns also added quarterback Cody Kessler to the mix while addressing their defensive front seven with Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib on Day Two, adding Joe Schobert as well in the fourth round.
The Baltimore Ravens passed on Laremy Tunsil due to certain pre-draft revelations at the sixth overall selection, opting instead for tackle Ronnie Stanley, whom some had higher on their draft boards anyway.
Like the Browns, the Ravens used Day Two to address their front seven, adding an edge rusher in Kamalei Correa and defensive end Bronson Kaufusi. Baltimore was well-stocked for Day Three with five fourth-round selections, during which they picked up some talent at positions of need with cornerback Tavon Young and wide receiver Chris Moore. The Ravens also drafted running back Kenneth Dixon in the fourth round.
As for the defending division champions, the Cincinnati Bengals, they may have had arguably the best draft in the division in terms of the quality of player and value at each pick. They manage to acquire several players that many had targeted for the Steelers, starting with cornerback William Jackson III in the first round, right ahead of the Steelers, who took Burns.
The Bengals likely took Jackson as the best player on their board following a run of wide receivers right before their pick, but they got Tyler Boyd out of Pittsburgh in the second round, and then addressed the linebacker need with Nick Vigil in the third.
Once again at one spot ahead of the Steelers, Cincinnati selected defensive tackle Andrew Billings, who slid dramatically further than most predicted, and should be a fixture in their line for years. Adding great value with guard Christian Westerman in the fifth round, the Bengals’ draft really had a theme of solidifying and fortifying a very strong roster.