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Around the AFC North: Post-Draft

Posted May 26, 2014

A look at how Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Cleveland fared in the 2014 NFL Draft

At look at how the Steelers’ AFC North Division rivals handled the draft:

BALTIMORE RAVENS
First round, linebacker. Second round, defensive lineman.

Once again, the styles and philosophies of the division’s two bitterest rivals were difficult to differentiate without a scorecard.

The Ravens’ linebacker, C.J. Mosley of Alabama, was regarded as either the No. 1 or the No. 1a inside linebacker available (along with the Steelers’ first-round pick, Ryan Shazier of Ohio State). And the Ravens’ defensive lineman, Timmy Jernigan of Florida State, excelled in a big-school environment amid national championship expectations (as did the Steelers’ second-round pick, Stephon Tuitt of Notre Dame).

Apparently, the more things change, the more they stay the same in the AFC North.

Baltimore’s third-round pick was Crockett Gillmore (tight end, Colorado State), who might bring a little more attitude/swagger to the Ravens offense. Gillmore caught a TD pass on Vanderbilt cornerback Kenny Ladler in a red zone drill during a Senior Bowl practice and promptly dunked the ball over the cross bar.

Ravens free-agent receiver Steve Smith no doubt approved.

The team GPA went way up with the selection of Penn State center John Urschel on the fifth round. Urschel has taught mathematics at PSU while working toward his master’s in mathematics at the university. He also has written an article titled “The Instabilities of the Sun-Jupiter-Asteroid Three-Body Problem,” one that’s been published in the periodical “Celestial Mechanics and Dynamical Astronomy.”

The complexities of the Ravens’ playbook ought not to be an issue.

CINCINNATI BENGALS
Running back Jeremy Hill (second round, LSU) set an SEC record by averaging 6.9 yards per carry while amassing 1,401 rushing yards in 2013. Red flags off the field had analysts suspecting Hill would be selected lower than the second-round grade that was indicated by his on-the-field production, but the Bengals apparently weren’t deterred.

Or, perhaps they were convinced by a letter Hill reportedly sent to all 32 NFL teams stating that he has dealt with his off-the-field issues and that he shouldn’t be considered a character risk.

Third-round pick Will Clarke (defensive end, West Virginia) had six sacks and 17 tackles for loss in 2013 but really impressed scouts at the East-West game.

Perhaps the Bengals’ most interesting selection was Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron of Alabama on the fifth round. McCarron wasn’t included on the top line of quarterbacks available heading into the draft, but all he did at Alabama was win. And his arm strength suggests he was much more than a game-manager for an otherwise stacked program.

CLEVELAND BROWNS
Many analysts had Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert pegged as the first cornerback off the board in advance of the draft.

Cleveland clearly agreed.

The Browns apparently joined the crowd of those impressed by Gilbert’s speed (his 4.37 40-yard dash was No. 1 among cornerbacks at the Combine) and his ability to get his hands on the football and do something significant with it thereafter (six career kickoff returns for touchdowns, two pick-sixes in 2013).

Second-round pick Joel Bitonio (offensive tackle, Nevada) impressed as a potential right tackle and perhaps as a potential left tackle by holding his own against pass-rushers from Florida State, Clemson and UCLA (first-round defensive end/linebacker Anthony Barr). Bitonio played guard in the Senior Bowl and might also end up there in the NFL.

Fourth-round pick Pierre Desir played for the Division II Lindenwood Lions, located in St. Charles, Missouri. At 6-foot-1 and 198 pounds and with 25 career interceptions in 44 career starts, what he did and how he did it may prove more significant than where Desir did what he did in the college game.

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