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AFC North Draft Roundup: Day 1

NFL: NFL Draft Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The first round of the NFL draft is now concluded and it was a wild one. This includes in the AFC North.

The Baltimore Ravens were one of the most active teams in the league, making two total trades and acquiring an additional first-round pick in exchange for wide receiver Marquise Brown — who they traded to the Arizona Cardinals. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals stood pat and drafted positions of need.

The lone team that did not make a pick is the Cleveland Browns, who gave up their first-rounder to the Houston Texans earlier this offseason in the Deshaun Watson trade.

Baltimore Ravens

Pick: No. 14 overall

Selection: S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame

The Houston Texans were originally slotted to pick before the Ravens at No. 13, but they traded their selection to the Philadelphia. Howie Rosman and the Eagles swooped in and took defensive tackle Jordan Davis, the player most heavily linked to Baltimore in the pre-draft process.

So, the Ravens pivoted and took the top safety prospect in this year’s class, Kyle Hamilton out of Notre Dame. Hamilton was once considered a potential Top-5 pick but his draft stock began to slide a bit in recent weeks. He tested the Ravens’ “best player available” approach and they did not waver — selecting him even though safety was not a positional need.

The Ravens already have Chuck Clark in place and signed Marcus Williams to a five-year deal in free agency, so where Hamilton fits into the picture remains to be seen. At 6-foot-4, though, Hamilton is a versatile defensive back for new defensive coordinator Mike MacDonald to work with.

Pick: No. 25 overall (via BUF)

Selection: C Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa

After the Ravens received the No. 23 pick from the Arizona Cardinals in the Marquise Brown trade, they traded again. This time, they moved back two picks with the Buffalo Bills, receiving the No. 25 pick and an additional fourth-rounder. At No. 25, they nabbed center Tyler Linderbaum out of Iowa.

Linderbaum was the consensus top center prospect in this class and PFF’s highest-graded collegiate center in both 2020 and 2021. He allowed only three sacks in his entire college career for the Hawkeyes. The Ravens lost Bradley Bozeman in free agency, so Linderbaum is a potential plug-and-play replacement.

However, Linderbaum is not a seamless fit in the Ravens’ blocking scheme, so there will likely be an adjustment and learning curve. This move likely pushes Patrick Mekari out of the starting center spot and into a swing tackle, “sixth-man” type of utility role.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Pick: No. 20 overall

Selection: QB Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh

The Steelers were in the market for a quarterback all offseason. Even after signing Mitchell Trubisky in free agency, they were heavily linked to the top quarterback prospects in the draft. Ultimately, they did use their first-round pick on a signal-caller and didn’t need to trade up to do so.

It wasn’t many people’s top prospect though, Mailk Willis, but instead Kenny Pickett out of Pittsburgh. Pickett will get to stay in his same collegiate city and play in the same stadium where he established himself as a Heisman Trophy candidate in 2021.

Pickett is considered a solid all-around quarterback prospect with good intangibles and accuracy. There were concerns over his subpar hand size in the pre-draft process, but that evidently wasn’t enough to scare the Steelers away from picking him. He could challenge for starting reps right away or sit behind Trubisky for a year before taking the reins.

Cincinnati Bengals

Pick: No. 31 overall

Selection: CB/S Daxton Hill, Michigan

The Bengals had to wait longer than just about any other team to make their pick on Thursday night. Despite an early run on defensive backs, Michigan’s Daxton Hill was available at No. 31 overall and they scooped him up.

Hill is considered a top-end safety prospect in this draft class but also has cornerback versatility, making him a safety/nickel hybrid player. He did a little bit of everything for the Wolverines’ top-ranked defense in 2021 and displayed a knack for making timely plays.

Hill, the brother of Ravens’ running back Justice Hill, should step in as an immediate contributor to the Bengals’ defense. Cincinnati also re-signed Jessie Bates III and Eli Apple in free agency, so drafting Hill is another move to further sure up the secondary.