AFC North Has Been Shaken Up, But We’ll See How it Shakes Out - John Eisenberg
In that macro sense, almost nothing has changed in the AFC North for well over a decade.
Suddenly, though, the division is awash in upheaval. Few other divisions around the NFL, if any, are experiencing as much change.
The Bengals and Browns have new head coaches. The Browns and Ravens have new franchise quarterbacks. The Ravens have a new general manager after 23 years of Ozzie Newsome. The Steelers have moved on from two signature players, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. The Browns, suddenly, have the most dynamic stable of playmakers, led by just-acquired Odell Beckham Jr.
Cleveland is currently the favorite to win the AFC North with 7-5 odds, followed by Pittsburgh at 8-4, Baltimore at 15-5 and Cincinnati at 18-1.
Finding a pass rusher looks like a priority
It wasn’t a surprise to see Smith depart in free agency. But losing Suggs as well made finding a pass rusher all the more important.
Here’s something to keep in mind regarding pass rushers. Since 2012, only two players have reached 10 sacks as a rookie – Bradley Chubb who had 12 sacks for the Denver Broncos last season, and Joey Bosa who had 10 ½ sacks for the San Diego Chargers as a rookie in 2016.
It often takes time for pass rushers to hit their stride, and the Ravens are hoping that happens with returning linebackers Tim Williams and Tyus Bowser.
The Ravens still seem likely to draft a wide receiver. But will it be in Round 1?
Most recent mock drafts project the Ravens taking a wide receiver at No. 22. With the loss of Brown and Crabtree, Willie Snead IV is the only wide receiver on the roster with at least 50 catches in his career. If there’s a wide receiver available at No. 22 who the Ravens like, they’ll have to consider taking him.
However, if the Ravens do draft a wide receiver in the first round, it will be fascinating to see which one they choose. Who would help quarterback Lamar Jackson most, a deep threat like Parris Campbell of Ohio State or Marquis Brown of Oklahoma? Or a bigger-body possession target like N’Keal Harry of Arizona State or Hakeem Butler of Iowa St.? Or a receiver with both size and speed, like the two first-round prospects from Ole Miss - D.K. Metcalf and A.J. Brown?
Deebo Samuel of South Carolina is another receiver prospect with intriguing attributes.
Tim Williams ‘ready to be that man’ for Baltimore Ravens - Mark Inabinett
As a rookie, Williams missed half of the Ravens’ games because of a thigh injury. Williams played 125 defensive snaps and made six tackles in 2017.
In 2018, Williams played in only seven games because of hamstring and ankle injuries, and he missed the entire second half of the season. He played 119 defensive snaps and made 10 tackles.
“The book ain’t written yet on the ones we drafted the past couple of years,” said Joe Hortiz, Baltimore’s director of college scouting, during an appearance on “The Lounge” podcast on the Ravens’ official website. “Some guys take a little time.”
Williams’ second season started with much more promise than it developed into. He recorded a sack in three straight preseason games and had two sacks in a reserve role in the Ravens’ first four regular-season games before the injuries caught up with him.
“Tim was giving us some heat early on,” Hortiz said.
Paul Kruger, Pernell McPhee and Za’Darius Smith are recent Ravens pass rushers who required a couple seasons of development to reach their potential.
2019 NFL MOCK DRAFT 7.0 - Trevor Sikkema
Lamar Jackson needs help, but not just any kind of help -- not every wide receiver in this class can compliment his game the way Brown can.
Brown has had a lot of practice not only being the focal point of an offense with plenty of targets, but also inside and out as a route runner in the slot and at the sideline. They can use Brown however Jackson needs him to be used to keep their run-based offense moving.
Brown is the third receiver selected in this mock, following D.K. Metcalf (#2) and N’Keal Harry (#17).