2015 Draft Needs: AFC North
The 2015 NFL draft is finally at hand and here at PFF we are more prepared for it than we’ve ever been. In tallying a full season of FBS data we’ve been able to present you with tons of info at our College Football Focus home page on the soon-to-be NFL rookies that will soon be appearing at training camps across the league.
Armed with this information we’re suggesting viable targets at key positions of need for all the teams, here for the AFC North:
Early Round Target: Devin Smith, Ohio St.
With the loss of Torrey Smith, the receiving corps in Baltimore is a wasteland. Steve Smith is still the No. 1 receiver, but he’ll be turning 36 before the start of his next campaign. Devin Smith could replace Torrey’s production and then some. The Ohio St. receiver was the best deep threat in the country last season and reeled in 17 of 18 catchable balls over 20 yards downfield.
Early Round Target: Senquez Golson, Ole Miss
Last year’s playoff loss showed just how thin the Ravens are at corner after their top two. Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith should be back as starters, but a slot corner is still a clear weakness. Senquez Golson has the lateral agility to cover the slot and speed to develop into an edge corner over time. Of corners targeted more than 50 times he gave up the lowest passer rating (44.9) in 2014.
Early Round Target: Duke Johnson, Miami (FL)
Justin Forsett is back, but at 29-years-old he’s not going to carry a three-down load in Baltimore. Duke Johnson could fill the receiving production the Ravens lost with Ray Rice. Johnson averaged 1.86 Yards Per Route Run last year, the third-highest total among running backs.
Early Round Target: Trey Flowers, Arkansas
Even with the return of Michael Johnson, we’d be wary of expecting too much from the defensive end that was dreadful in Tampa Bay last season. With Margus Hunt wallowing in limited snaps, they’d be wise to add someone to the defense end rotation to keep Carlos Dunlap Fresh. Trey Flowers fits the Bengals defensive end mold of recent years. He’s extremely strong against the run with solid pass rush to boot. The Arkansas end led his position in run stop percentage last year at 11.7.
Early Round Target: Eddie Goldman, Florida State
Domata Peko is well past his prime and has transitioned into a full blown liability. Pat Sims was brought in from Oakland on a one-year deal to soften the need, but it’s still a position without a long term solution. Eddie Goldman has at least some ability to stop the run in a draft short on true nose tackles outside of the first round. We think Goldman has second- or third-round talent, but it’s not likely that he makes it to the Bengals’ second round slot.
Early Round Target: Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi St.
Emmanuel Lamur was too often exposed against the run and in coverage last season to be considered a starting player this season. Drafting a player like Benardrick McKinney could provide the Bengals flexibility with his ability to play any of the three linebacker positions. McKinney’s 11.8 Run Stop Percentage was 17th best among inside linebackers.
Early Round Target: Danny Shelton, Washington
Phil Taylor and Ishmaa’ily Kitchen’s have proven at this point that neither is a true impact player at the nose tackle position. Danny Shelton has the Vince Wilfork in his prime potential that defensive coordinators drool over. Shelton had 31 total pressures, fourth-most for a defensive tackle in this class.
Early Round Target: Clive Walford, Miami (FL)
Jordan Cameron’s departure means the Browns are without a serious red-zone threat. It’s a thin tight end class, but Clive Walford combines probably the finest blend of size and athleticism. His 3.38 Yards Per Route Run paced all college tight ends a year ago.
Early Round Target: Eli Harold, Virginia
Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo are productive players in their own right, but neither is player you’d want playing every snap of every game. With Jabaal Sheard heading to New England, the Browns would be wise to add another edge defender to the mix to spell Mingo and Kruger. Eli Harold is already an accomplished pass rusher and has experience rushing with his hand off the ground. Harold’s 29 pressures against left tackles was the second most at his position in the FBS.
Early Round Target: Jalen Collins, LSU
Even with Ike Taylor the Steelers cornerback situation would have been a mess, but now without him it is a drastic position of need. William Gay is the only returning corner with serious playing time to grade positively a year ago. Jalen Collins has some off field issues, but he could be the most talented cornerback in this class. Collins’ 41.5% catch rate was the 4th lowest in the FBS.
Early Round Target: Bud Dupree, Kentucky
Jarvis Jones has not been the edge threat the Steelers envisioned when they selected him in the first round two years ago. With 37-year-old James Harrison as their preeminent starter it’s time to invest in a pass rusher early and often. Bud Dupree would be the anti-Jarvis Jones. Dupree has all the measurable, but not near the college production. We understand that all signs point to Dupree being gone far before the Steelers get to their pick, but our analysts didn’t see the same value of his skills in our mock draft.
Early Round Target: Adrian Amos, Penn St.
Corner is not the only position in the secondary that is hurting. Troy Polamalu leaves some enormous shoes to fill with his retirement. Shamarko Thomas has been groomed as his replacement, but with only 195 snaps in his career he’s a substantial question mark. Amos showed well covering the slot and over the top of the D and could help replace some of Polamalu’s production. Amos’ 0.22 Yards Per Coverage Snap allowed from the slot led the nation a year ago.
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