Building the roster: AFC North
In a new series this week, National Recruiting Analyst Adam Gorney has broken down the roster of every NFL team in terms of star ratings for players in high school, which conferences have the most players on each team and which states those players come from as well. Below is a breakdown of the AFC North as National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell offers his thoughts and memories on each roster.
MORE: AFC East breakdown
There are some interesting storylines when it comes to the Ravens opening week roster and first off is the fact that there is only one five-star in cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who was the second-best cornerback in the 2014 class behind Jabrill Peppers.
There are 18 four-stars including quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Robert Griffin III but not an influx of Michigan players even though coach John Harbaugh’s brother, Jim, coaches the Wolverines. Defensive lineman Chris Wormley is the lone former Michigan player on the Ravens’ roster. The team only has three Big Ten players.
Baltimore does smartly love Alabama players, though, with Humphrey, RB Mark Ingram, OL Bradley Bozeman, LB Tim Williams and DBs Anthony Averett and Cyrus Jones. The Ravens aren’t shy about drafting Oklahoma offensive players either with Marquise Brown, Mark Andrews, Orlando Brown Jr. and Ben Powers on the roster along with DB Tony Jefferson.
FARRELL’S TAKE: Jackson is the focal point of the Ravens team and we had him as a four-star coming out of high school but he played like a five-star in college and was a first-rounder. Humphrey was a no-brainer five-star out of high school and he's done a good job living up to that and the Alabama and Oklahoma connection here is very interesting.
Brown Jr. is probably the most interesting story I can think of because he was a three-star out of high school who was very out of shape and OU turned him into an All-American as they tend to do with offensive linemen. Ingram is interesting as well as we had him as a four-star athlete out of high school because he could have also been an amazing defensive player.
The projected over/under win total for the Bengals this season is six, but if rankings are playing a factor in this franchise then Cincinnati could be a team on the rise in the coming years. There are seven five-star prospects on this roster in RB Joe Mixon, WR A.J. Green, OL Andre Smith, defensive linemen Carlos Dunlap, Carl Lawson and Andrew Brown and then defensive back Dre Kirkpatrick.
Five-stars are well-represented, but so are other high-star prospects as the Bengals boast 16 four-stars, including 13 on offense and then 15 three-star prospects. There is a lot of young, dynamic talent, especially on offense within this franchise.
As for conference affiliation, the SEC leads with 12 players, with Georgia being the best represented and then the ACC is close behind with 11 players from that conference. Ohio State has three players on the roster in OLs Billy Price and Michael Jordan and DL Sam Hubbard, no surprise since Columbus is close and routinely pumps out top talent.
FARRELL’S TAKE: There is a ton of talent on this Bengals roster, at least by high school standards, and many of the five-stars have turned into very good NFL players.
Mixon was an elite talent coming out of high school and could have been a wide receiver if he wanted to be. He would have been a first-rounder for sure had it not been for off-field issues. Green was one of the most athletic and talented wide receivers I've ever scouted while Smith is still the nastiest offensive lineman I've seen. He just destroyed people. There is some talent on defense here but the offense remains stagnant and they need to get a franchise quarterback.
There are some really interesting themes when examining Cleveland’s roster and it starts with the Browns’ focus on SEC West schools. Thirteen players from the SEC are on that roster and 11 of them including receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry and CB Greedy Williams (LSU), Myles Garrett, Damion Ratley and Ricky Seals-Jones from Texas A&M and Greg Robinson, Devaroe Lawrence and Jermaine Whitehead out of Auburn, played in the West division.
Something else that was interesting is Cleveland’s attitude toward Power Five offensive linemen. There are nine offensive linemen on the opening day roster and only Robinson from Auburn and Wyatt Teller from Virginia Tech played at Power Five schools. Six former five-stars are on the Browns’ roster in Landry, Garrett, Thomas, quarterback Garrett Gilbert and linebackers Malik Jefferson and Lyndell Wilson.
FARRELL’S TAKE: Cleveland is on the come up and there is some amazing talent here from the old high school days. Garrett was the No. 2 player in the country and he should have been No. 1 and guys like Beckham Jr. and others should have been five-stars.
Teller is interesting to me because he was scouted and projected as a defensive lineman and has made the successful switch to offensive line. I'm surprised guys like Seals-Jones have made it because their college careers weren't that great but it shows how much talent can carry you if you let it. Baker Mayfield is of course the leader of the team and was a three-star walk-on out of high school.
It will be interesting to see if guys like Jefferson and Wilson pan out at linebacker as former five-stars because they had so much talent.
If there is one thing that stands out about the Steelers opening day roster, it’s that there is a tremendous amount of variety of players from all different schools in all different conferences. Many teams target certain schools or even certain conferences, but the Steelers roster is a mishmash of basically everything.
Seven different ACC teams have at least one player on the team and the same for six different SEC squads. There are 14 players on Pittsburgh from non-Power Five schools including OL Alejandro Villanueva from Army and of course quarterback Ben Roethlisberger from Miami (Ohio).
There are some interesting notes though: Four players from Tennessee dot the roster, three from USC (including JuJu Smith-Schuster) and the intriguing tandem of quarterback Mason Rudolph and WR James Washington, who could have a big future together in the Steel City, out of Oklahoma State.
FARRELL’S TAKE: The Steelers stink and the roster isn't very talented overall, but there are some interesting players. James Connor was scouted as a defensive end out of high school and I remember him showing up as a huge surprise to us at our VTO Pittsburgh camp because he was so unknown at the time. Smith-Schuster was just John Smith when we scouted him, a five-star defensive back who has turned into a great offensive talent and Fitzpatrick was a guy we moved from cornerback to safety at the end of the process because we were worried about his ability in space. Oooooops. Tuitt was an elite talent out of high school who had a great college career and is one of the more underrated players in the NFL.