Offseason Grades: AFC North

  • Pittsburgh Steelers
    • Best Draft Pick – Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
  • I was torn between Mason Rudolph and Marcus Allen, the Steelers first fifth-round pick. But the edge goes to Rudolph, who I believe will become the quarterback of the future in Pittsburgh. Personally, I thought he was the second most pro-ready quarterback in the draft behind Baker Mayfield. I am a little worried about his lack of a high ceiling. However, I think he has the ability to be at least a solid starter, something like a Kirk Cousins or, at the worst, an Andy Dalton or Ryan Tannehill. I had a late first-round grade on Rudolph, making him an extreme value in the third round. With all of those things, though, my favorite part is that Pittsburgh drafted his favorite receiver from Oklahoma State, James Washington, one round earlier. Whenever Rudolph does start, Washington’s presence should make it a little easier of a transition.
  • Worst Draft Pick – Terrell Edmunds, S, Virginia Tech
    • I should note immediately that I am not saying that Edmunds doesn’t have talent. I personally think that he has just as high of a ceiling as his brother, Tremaine, who was also drafted in the first round. However, this was a bad pick because Terrell had a much, much lower floor. I had a third-round grade on him simply because he is a huge boom-or-bust prospect. He will either be an All-Pro or a washout.
  • Best Signing – Jon Bostic, LB
    • The signing of Morgan Burnett definitely netted a better player, but there clearly was a much larger hole at linebacker than safety (Especially after the picks of Edmunds and Allen). Bostic is definitely at least an average starter. Even after this signing, though, there is still a need at this position.
  • Worst Loss – Ryan Shazier, LB
    • I know Shazier is technically still on the roster, but how he is viewed as a football player has changed extremely since this time last year. For the first 12 games of last year, Shazier was playing like one of the best inside linebackers in the league. If he had kept on pace, he would have finished the season with 119 tackles and 4 interceptions. Those numbers would have put him firmly into the discussion for best linebacker in the NFL. Instead, he suffered one of the most gruesome injuries I’ve ever seen and just started walking again (with a cane) a couple of months ago. I hope he can get back and play at the same level eventually, but in the meantime, what was a position of strength for the Steelers with Shazier is a glaring weakness without him.
  • Grade: C+


  • Cincinnati Bengals
    • Best Draft Pick – Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
      • Jefferson was considered even possible first-round pick before this past season. He had a down season, though, and there were rumors about his lack of passion for football. Nonetheless, I thought he was worth a day 1 pick for a team with a strong locker room. I am slightly worried about the fit next to Vontaze Burfict, who has his own issues, but if he lives up to his potential, him, Burfict and Preston Brown will make up one of the best linebacker groups in the NFL.
    • Worst Draft Pick – None
      • I honestly feel like the Bengals didn’t make a single bad selection. All of their picks from days 1 and 2 should start immediately and all of their day 3 picks have immense potential and could start down the road.
    • Best Signing – Preston Brown, LB
      • Pairing Brown next to Vontaze Burfict and Malik Jefferson suddenly makes this a strength for the Bengals. Brown racked up 144 tackles with the Bills last year. This gives the team three true tackling machines in the middle of the defense.
    • Worst Loss – AJ McCarron
      • To be fair, this wasn’t a huge loss, as McCarron never truly pushed Andy Dalton for the starting job. Honestly, the only reason that it’s going to hurt them at all is that they could’ve traded him for something instead of letting him walk.
    • Grade: A


  • Baltimore Ravens
    • Best Draft Pick – Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma
      • Andrews was a late-first or early second round talent to me. Getting him in the third was a great value in my opinion, and truly solidifies the tight end position. Andrews was clearly the best tight end the Ravens took in my opinion.
    • Worst Draft Pick – Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
      • I like the fit, and I like the trades back, I just don’t think Hurst was the pick here. If the pick had been Dallas Goedert, you would hear no complaint from me. But Hurst will be a 25-year-old rookie, and the other tight end the Ravens took, Andrews, might be better, along with being younger.
    • Best Signing – Willie Snead, WR
      • Snead is heavily underrated, as his stats show: before his underachieving 2017 season, Snead had two seasons in a row with at least 69 catches and 895 yards. If he and John Brown can overcome their underachieving this past season, the Ravens may have a solid receiving group for the first time in a while.
    • Worst Loss – Ladarius Webb, S
      • This has much more to do with Webb’s effect in the locker room than anything else. The last few seasons, he has had a fairly small effect on the field as a third safety, but his effect in the locker room has been tremendous. Webb’s value to the Ravens has been the same as why teams like the Texans and the Jets signed Ed Reed after he left the Ravens. He was no longer an on-field superstar, but he certainly helped the young guys develop as players.
    • Grade: B


  • Cleveland Browns
    • Best Draft Pick – Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
      • I have believed Baker was the best quarterback in this class since I watched his tape the first time. There are some cases in which stats can be misleading (Geno Smith), but Baker showed enough on tape that the stats didn’t matter a ton to me. The Browns had the first overall pick two years in a row now, and both years they took my favorite player in the draft.
    • Worst Draft Pick – Simeon Thomas, DB, Louisiana
      • This one is as simple as this: I have never heard of Simeon Thomas. And from the people I have talked to about this pick, it doesn’t sound like many people have. I think that if the Browns wanted him, they should have just waited for him to go undrafted, which probably would have (and should have) been the case.
    • Best Signing – Carlos Hyde, RB
      • I know he will be in a committee this year, but Hyde is a good enough power back that he should be able to hold onto the starting position over Nick Chubb for at least a couple of years. This was a good value signing, providing some experience for a running back room who lost its most experienced player in free agency.
    • Worst Loss – Joe Thomas, OL
      • Of course, it’s Thomas. Who else would I put here? Despite his being 32 at the beginning of last season, he was still one of the best (if not the best) left tackles in the league. He is by far the best offensive lineman I have ever seen play, and he will be an easy first-ballot Hall of Famer. How do you replace that?
    • Grade: A-

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