In the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft Thursday night in Dallas, two of the four AFC North teams made two picks, while the other two stayed put and picked just once.
Early returns are solid for the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens, while the draft community appears split on the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers’ first-round hauls.
Picking first overall for the second straight year, the Browns appear to have hit a homerun, selecting Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield over other quarterbacks like Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, and Sam Darnold.
Mayfield was a controversial prospect coming into the draft, but he’s a clear winner, favored by the analytical crowd, and is a true leader of men at quarterback. General Manager John Dorsey has a strong track record with quarterback selections in the draft, as does personal assistant Scot McCloughan, who played a big role in the selection of Mayfield.
Comparing Mayfield to Johnny Manziel is a lazy comparison. Mayfield is head and shoulders a better locker room guy, leader, and all-around quarterback.
After picking Mayfield, the Browns were up again at No. 4, and picked Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward.
Ward was the consensus CB1 in the class, but it was still a bit of a surprise that the Browns picked the Ohio State product over NC State defensive end Bradley Chubb. However, Ward brings a physical, lockdown personality to the position, which should help the Browns shore up the defensive secondary even further this offseason.
Baltimore had one pick coming into the draft, but traded down from 16 to 25, to select South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst, before then trading back into the first round with the Philadelphia Eagles to select quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Hurst was a reach, at least from my point of view. Baltimore has invested a ton in the tight end position over the last three seasons, and now they’re investing again with a first-round pick once again with Hurst, who’s going to be 25 at the start of the season.
Jackson is the real piece here. He’s an electrifying quarterback who will likely come in, push Joe Flacco out the door, and possibly change the perception about mobile quarterbacks in the NFL moving forward. Jackson has a great arm, can make all the throws, and can extend plays with his legs. He’s a dangerous weapon that the Ravens just added for the future.
Cincinnati addressed a clear need by selecting Ohio State center Billy Price, but it’s a pick that won’t move the barometer for the Bengals’ fan base.
The Bengals should have taken a shot on Jackson, or picked someone like Rashaan Evans. Instead, they get a center, who while great, doesn’t open that championship window back up for Cincinnati.
Price will slot in right away as the starting center, and will likely make a number of Pro Bowl’s throughout his career, but it seems like a pick that doesn’t make the Bengals that much better of a team, at least right now.