Tracking the AFC North Draft Picks, Rounds 2 and 3

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How did Momma miss this guy?

I’m going to go live here, because why not? I will be updating as there is anything interesting to add.

The first AFC North pick in the second round was scheduled to be the Bengals, as the Browns had traded up with the Packers to take TE David Njoku at No. 29. But they traded down with the Vikings, and so the AFC North picks will be pretty condensed in Round 2 – Nos. 15, 16 and 20, and then of course the Steelers at 30.

I was curious as to which of the more highly rated players were left on the board at this point. I’m using a grade of 6.0 out of 10 as the cutoff point, since that encompasses the first 34 prospects.

Of those, the most highly-rated is DT Caleb Brantley, followed by RB Joe Mixon, who so far nobody seems to want to touch with a 10-foot pole, and OLB Tim Williams. As far as defensive backs, the highest-rated one left at the moment is S Josh Jones. He is rated at 5.8. Looking down from there, there are a couple of safeties (Justin Evans and Obi Melfonwu, who sounds like a character from a Star Wars movie,) and CBs Chidobe Awuzie, Rasul Douglas, Quincy Williams, and gosh, a bunch of them. (Colts just took Williams, the Bucs took Evans, and the Raiders just took Melifonwu. The Cowboys took Awuzie at No. 28, which is a pity. The Packers took Jones right afterwards.)

This is supposed to be a deep and excellent TE class, so let’s see who is left: Gerald Everett, Adam Shaheen, Bucky Hodges, and Jake Butt. The latter two have 3rd round grades on them.  (Everett was taken by the Rams, Shaheen by the Bears.)

My All-Pro Names draft was full of DEs, so let’s see what DEs are left: Chris Wormley, Daeshon Hall, and Demarcus Walker. What we probably need more, though, is an ILB, and the ones left: Zach Cunningham, who probably won’t make it to the Steelers but would be something to have next to Ryan Shazier, and Alex Anzalone, (Broncos just took Walker, and Houston took Cunningham.)

The Ravens just picked OLB Tyus Bowser, a guy I would have liked to have on the Steelers, although I suppose they were unlikely to draft another OLB one round after taking T.. Watt.

The Bengals just took RB Joe Mixon. Big surprise. They love criminals there… Okay, let’s put this in a more tactful way – they love getting high-risk high reward players on the cheap. Bucky Brooks made a very cautious statement – that the Bengals have a lot of players who totter on a dangerous emotional edge, or words to that effect. Some guy just tweeted “Not sure there is a more Cinci pick than Joe Mixon.”

And honestly, I’m not sure what good the great WRs and RBs are going to do if they don’t do something about their offensive line. It was bad last year and has gotten worse so far…

browns-quarterback-halloween-graveyardThe Browns just made their 2nd round pick – they had a couple before they started horsetrading IIRC. And oh man, the picked DeShone Kizer. Apparently they have been perusing my mock drafts. So how many QBs are on the roster now? Brock Osweiler, of course, since they apparently couldn’t trade him away, and Cody Kessler, and Kevin Hogan. Well, I’m guessing this means the Steelers won’t be taking a QB in the 2nd round…. Lance Zierlein called him the ultimate boom-bust prospect. I guess I would look at the Quarterback Graveyard and feel a little nervous if I were him.

Now we have to wait through nine long picks for the Steelers. I suppose in the meantime I could also see who is left in the wide receivers. That would be: JuJu Smith-Schuster, (I’m not sure why he wasn’t in my All-Pro Names draft,) Dede Westbrook, ArDarius Stewart, and Cooper Kupp.

I find myself wondering if they have so many guest announcers to cut down the boos, which rain down on Roger Goodell every time he comes out. Franco Harris is giving the Steelers’ selection, which apparently just killed the internet. How about that – we got the wide receiver, JuJu Smith-Schuster. So let’s take a look at him, since we have plenty of time before the next AFC North pick….

My first thought is, the powers that be certainly don’t have any confidence whatsoever in Martavis Bryant’s ability to stay clean. And why should they? They gave him all kinds of help and support and he couldn’t stay clean. I really hope he’s managed to turn it around, But in the meantime Smith-Schuster gives Ben another big target, because of course nobody knows for sure whether Ladarius Green is going to be able to play. So frankly I’m not shocked. But enough about why – here’s the who..

From now on out he’s going to be JJ S-S, or even just JJ,  because I’m going to get a repetitive motion injury typing his name. In terms of value, he was one of the most highly-ranked players remaining on the board – the only ones higher are the DT, Caleb Brantley, who may go undrafted because of a major legal issue, OLB Tim Williams (I don’t know why he isn’t getting any love) and RB Alvin Kamara. I just don’t see the Steelers taking a back that high since signing Knile Davis. So if JJ works out, he may end up being a steal.

He comes from USC, where he played safety before switching to WR. I love what Lance Zierlein had to say:

Outstanding size and a very available target. Shows no concern working over the middle. Known for his competitive spirit and alpha demeanor. Hyper-aware of defenders around him in space. Works back to the ball as aggressively as he needs to when defenders are attempting to ball-hawk. Searches and sinks into the optimal openings against zone coverage. Plays to his size and has plus route strength….

Smith-Schuster will get dinged for his lack of speed and separation but he reminds me of Anquan Boldin with his strong hands, physical approach and ability to win the combat catches. JuJu is missing some of the speed traits teams want from their WR1, but he could become a high-volume, possession target with the size to win some 50/50 throws down the field. Teams who have a speed merchant at one spot would be wise to take a look at Smith-Schuster as a physical counterpart.

Sounds like a great fit for the Steelers to me. I look forward to seeing what he can do in camp.

The Browns are back with the first pick of the 3rd round, with which they took DT Larry Ogunjobi. The Bengals are next at No. 9, and the Ravens have two picks, one from the Eagles, Nos. 10 and 14. The Steelers have Nos. 31 and 41 (a comp pick.) The picks are coming in faster now, but I really need to practice, so I’ll be back in a bit and pick up the thread.

Okay, I’m back and the Bengals and Ravens have picked. The Ravens took DE Chris Wormley, and the Bengals took OLB Jordan Willis, who, oddly, seems to be a very solid citizen. I still can’t figure out why they aren’t taking offensive linemen, who in general seem to be coming off the board rather slowly.

Ravens are up again, and take OLB Tim Williams, which seems like very good value. Apparently he’s rather limited in what he can do in terms of scheme, but he’s supposed to be an excellent rusher, so the O-line needs to mind their ps and qs..

We’ve got some time here, so let’s update the best players remaining. Let’s go back to defense and see who is around that still has a 3rd round grade. I’ll begin with the DBS:

Oh darn, the Colts just took DE Tarell Basham. But to return to the DBs:

CBs Rasul Douglas, Cordrea Tankersley, and Jourdan Lewis, who is a great-looking corner in every way except that he has a pending domestic violence case…. (Cowboys just took Lewis. I guess they either don’t care or know something about the legal status. Miami just took Tankersley with their comp pick. The Eagles just took Douglas with their comp pick.)

Ss: John Johnson, Desmond King, Tedric Thompson (Johnson just taken by the Rams)

We’ll assume the Steelers aren’t going to take another wide receiver. But how about one of those terrific tight ends? Here’s who’s left:

Bucky Hodges and Jake Butt are still there, and are the only ones with grades above the 4th round.

There are a few of QBs rated above the 4th round: Pitt’s Nathan Peterman, Davis Webb, and Brad Kaaya. None of them excite me that much, but then I haven’t really studied them. (The Giants just took Webb.)

Let’s check out the inside backers. Kendell Beckwith is left, the only ILB with above a 4th round grade. The DEs are also graded rather low. I wonder if they will actually go for Ejuan Price at the end of the round.

Woot woot, Steelers are on the clock. Who will it be? Lot of possibilities left.

Nice – Arthur Moats is announcing the pick, after singing “Here we go Steelers” rather badly… The pick is CB Cameron Sutton. Funny, I missed him. Here’s what Lance Zierlein thinks:

Man-cover corner with feet to mirror and match off line of scrimmage. Responsive to route keys from wideouts. Decent instincts looking to jump hitches and wide receiver screens. Desired fluidity of movement with ability to open and run from backpedal. Confident in coverage and rarely penalized. Good acceleration to ball raking across catch point when he gets there…Finished career with 37 passes defensed including seven interceptions. Allowed just three touchdowns during career. Praised by coaches for competitive character and selfless, team-first attitude. Worked his tail off to return to field after fracturing ankle in mid-September. Punt-return talent; career average of 14.9 yards with three touchdowns.

His downside is that he isn’t great at run support, but I’m guessing that he’ll be working a lot on that.

The Steelers are the only AFC North team with a comp pick, but there are eight picks before we get to it.

Okay, we’ve made it to the Steelers, finally. Arthur Moats is back to announce the pick – James Conner. Yes, I’m thrilled. He’s possibly overdrafted here, but if they really wanted him I’m even happier.

So I don’t know how the rest of you would grade this draft, but so far Momma’s Mock has hit on two of the four, so I’m ecstatic!!!! You can read about Conner in that article..

Let’s finish up with a video of Conner, in honor of all he’s been through and his great story:

5 comments

  • I really thought they’d go DEE-FENCE for at least the first two picks, but this guy does seem to have some JuJu, and you have to admit that they today’s draft team can pick wide receivers. Not a ringing endorsement of Martavis, but JuJu seems more possession than speed. The DB seems to have potential and James Conner — well, this is why the Steelers are the Steelers and not, say, the Bengals…

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  • JuJu will be Steeler Nation’s most closely watched pick in some time. The pick stunned most of the fans, and they want to see exactly what Tomlin and Colbert (and Haley and Mann) saw in this kid. One key part of Tomlin’s MO is to pick ’em young and coach ’em up. Ya gotta do that when you’re picking in the bottom third every year. JuJu was supposedly the youngest guy in this draft, barely 20 years old. While they have a lot of receivers, most of them are smallish and quick. This kid is tough as nails, played hurt, fights like hell for the ball, blocks exceedingly well, and is extremely advanced for his age. See you in Latrobe, JuJu!

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    • I’m actually pretty excited about him. Given who the Steelers are drafting I think their theory is that they are going to have to outscore everybody, including Tom Brady…

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  • cold_old_steelers_fan

    I love the Steelers picks this draft. JuJu had me slightly flummoxed for a second but then comparisons to Boldin and memories of Cotchery made me realize what a great pick he was.

    IMO the Steelers picks all made sense and were, at worst, solid choices with most having a lot of upside. the exception was the LS whom I think will be just fine as he is.

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    • I was a bit gob-smacked by the choice of a long snapper, but then I remembered noticing that the Steelers actually signed a free agent long snapper who is currently on the roster. I’m guessing Greg Warren told them he wants to retire after next season (he’s only had one-year contracts for the past 10 years) and they are looking for his long-term replacement.

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