The 2019 NFL draft has come and gone and we’ve starting analyzing the results division by division. Today we look at the AFC North. To make sure you read the entire series, check out the first installment.
The AFC North’s draft performance is a much more difficult analysis in comparison to the East. While looking high level at each East team’s slate of players, it is self evident each team did rather well. In contrast, looking at the North at quick glance leaves a lot of questions. Here we will try to answer those questions.
25th pick (25th overall) – WR Marquise Brown, Oklahoma
In Eric DeCosta’s first draft, his initial move was to trade down. DeCosta got the Philadelphia Eagles to send him the 25th, 127th, and 197th picks of the draft in order to move down three spots from #22. According to the Chase Stuart draft chart, Baltimore profited 4 points worth of draft capital in the trade. Put another way, DeCosta created the 122nd pick out of thin air.
After moving down three spots and adding two extra picks, the Ravens selected someone there was a high likelihood they would have chosen at their original position. Marquise Brown is more than just a burner, as he is an underrated route runner. That being said, the clear top value he provides to a team is his ability to stretch a defense.
With that in mind, I have to question this fit. If Brown’s best skill is his deep ball ability, why would you pair him with Lamar Jackson? Jackson has his strengths but deep accuracy is not one of them. While one can appreciate wanting a vertical threat to stretch out a defense keyed in on stopping this unique running attack, this is quite the premium to pay just for a spacing threat.
While I’m sure Baltimore (or at least I hope) will find other ways to get the ball into Brown’s hands as Brown is not merely a one trick pony, and it is unfair to assume they basically spent the 25th pick on a decoy, there is a serious fit question here. The pick itself is fine. Some had Brown as the best receiver in the class, and he was worthy of this selection as a prospect.
21st pick (85th overall) – Edge Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech
I’m higher on Ferguson than most others. While Ferguson doesn’t have elite, or even solid, athletic measurables, he leaves college as the FBS career leader in sacks. He may be bull rush dependent at the NFL level, but bull rush ability translates decently well. At worst Ferguson should be able to stick around as a situational rusher. Given his size he may also present the ability to shrink inside on obvious passing downs.
This is an excellent value pick that hits a need after losing Za’Darius Smith and Terrell Suggs earlier this offseason.
29th pick (93rd overall) – WR Myles Boykin, Notre Dame
Baltimore moved up from the 102nd selection to get to 93rd. In order to do so, the Ravens surrendered the 191st and 193rd picks of the draft in their trade with Minnesota.
Boykin is essentially the opposite of Ferguson in the sense that he is an elite athlete. Boykin posted a 4.42 40, 1.55 10-yard split, 43.5″ vertical, 140″ broad jump, and 6.77 3-cone. He was productive in 2018, and has reliable hands. Boykin brings more speed to this offense and is another weapon for Jackson.
11th pick (113th overall) – RB Justice Hill, Oklahoma State
I like Justice Hill, but I don’t understand taking a running back here. With all Baltimore lost in free agency, and the fact they signed Mark Ingram, why not target another position.
21st pick (123rd overall) – OG Ben Powers, Oklahoma
Powers fits this range and held up well in pass protection the past two seasons for Oklahoma. This is the type of selection for the team to make in the fourth round, not a running back.
25th pick (127th overall) – CB Iman Marshall, USC
Fantastic pick. Marshall fits the range and posted some elite coverage numbers last season in terms of yards/cover snap, cover snaps/target, and cover snaps/reception. Again, this is the type of selection to make in the fourth round.
22nd pick (160th overall) – DT Daylon Mack, Texas A&M
The fifth round is a fair area to just take the guys you like, but Mack isn’t going to find a way to the field behind Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce. This pick can’t be hated on but there are better dart throws.
24th pick (197th overall) – QB Trace McSorley, Penn State
This is such a fascinating pick. The Ravens are all in on this run heavy offense with a quarterback room of Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III, and Trace McSorley. I’m also interested to see if McSorley is deployed at other positions as well.
The Ravens had a good process in the first round. They moved down, picked up some extra picks, and still landed their top choice of receiver. The fit of Brown with Jackson is questionable, but the maneuvering was excellent. Baltimore then walked out of day three with two individuals that should be immediate contributors.
The Ravens had three picks in the fourth round and selected three good players, despite using one on an unnecessary running back. After a strange pick in the fifth, Baltimore finished off its draft weekend with a super interesting sixth round quarterback selection.
11th pick (11th overall) – OT Jonah Williams, Alabama
I suppose due to the spectacular gaffes committed by the Giants and Raiders, as well as the Jaguars being such massive beneficiaries of those gaffes, no one wanted to talk about how well Cincinnati made out in round one. After the Steelers lost their mind and traded directly in front of the Bengals (more on that on that later), Cincinnati kept its cool and selected the highest rated offensive tackle on its board. NFL group think tried to push Williams down the board, proclaiming his lack of 80-inch arms will require him to move inside to guard. Williams was the most technically sound tackle in the class, and was worthy of a top 10 pick.
This is a good value, and a good selection. However, it makes the Bobby Hart contract look even worse. The Bengals can get out of that deal after 2019, so Williams does look like the future at the position. Still, hopefully Cincinnati doesn’t waste a year of Williams’ development by forcing him to play guard at first before moving him outside in 2020.
20th pick (52nd overall) – TE Drew Sample, Washington
The only positive here is that the Bengals traded down first. Denver sent this pick, along with 125 and 182, in order to move up to 42. In the trade, Cincinnati profited 4 points worth of draft capital, equal to the 122nd pick of the draft.
This pick was originally acquired by Denver in the aforementioned Devin Bush trade. This is a major reach. To make matters worse, Sample is a blocking tight end. This is at least two rounds too high, and at a position of very limited impact. The Bengals nailed round one, but followed it up one of the worst selections of the entire draft.
8th pick (72nd overall) – LB Germaine Pratt, N.C. State
Another Cincinnati day two pick, another reach. Pratt wasn’t a top 100 player, and here we are at 72. After losing out on Bush in round one, it appears the Bengals acted out of desperation to fill this need. Cincinnati allowed the most touchdowns to tight ends last season (10) and desperately need someone that can cover the tight end position. Here they get Pratt, an athletic linebacker and former safety.
Jace Sternberger, a superior prospect to the one Cincinnati took in the second round, went three picks after this selection.
2nd pick (104th overall) – QB Ryan Finley, N.C. State
The Bengals traded up six spots in order to secure Finley. Finley is a smart, accurate quarterback that figures to be a good backup. This is a worthy investment to secure the position behind Andy Dalton.
23rd pick (125th overall) – DT Renell Wren, Arizona State
Renell Wren is a pretty athletic run stopper that offers very little in the pass rush department. However, that is when this type of player should go off the board, as opposed to say the 13th pick of the 2018 draft. Wren fits the range here as this is a solid selection.
34th pick (136th overall) – OG Michael Jordan, Ohio State
The Bengals offensive line last season was a major issue, especially the interior. Jordan fits the range for this selection.
9th pick (182nd overall) – RB Trayveon Williams, Texas A&M
37th pick (210th overall) – LB Deshaun Davis, Auburn
38th pick (211th overall) – RB Rodney Anderson, Oklahoma
In the sixth round the Bengals took two shots at replacing Gio Bernard, who is set to becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2020. Anderson is the potential steal here as his stock fell due to injury concerns. Had he stayed healthy he would have been a day two pick.
9th pick (223rd overall) – CB Jordan Brown, South Dakota State
The Bengals got no press for how well they did in the first round. They very well may have been targeting Bush, but ended up with a superior player at a much more valuable position. After two reaches on day two, Cincinnati did well on day three to get good value, along with a potential steal.
14th pick (46th overall) – CB Greedy Williams, LSU
The Browns threw the Colts a fifth rounder in order to move up three spots and select Williams. Despite not having a first round pick, Cleveland still walked away with a top 20 player. The problem with this corner class wasn’t a lack of talent; it’s that these guys were heavily scheme dependent. Williams is the best press man cover corner in the draft. As long as the Browns don’t try to force him to play zone, this should work out well. And no, missing four tackles per season should not make teams overlook 800 snaps worth of quality coverage play.
16th pick (80th overall) – LB Sione Takitaki, BYU
Takitaki is a good run defender and athlete. He ran a 4.63 40, 1.61 10-yard split, posted a 37” vertical, 125” broad jump, and a 7.21 3-cone at the combine while weighing in at 238 pounds. Takitaki is only average in coverage, however, and should have gone lower than this.
17th pick (119th overall) – S Sheldrick Redwine, Miami
A very underrated prospect. Redwine is an exceptional athlete that posted his best coverage season in 2018. At the combine, Redwine ran a 4.44 40 with a 1.53 10-yard split. He also posted a 39” vertical and a 130” broad jump. Additionally, Redwine is a reliable tackler.
17th pick (155th overall) – LB Mack Wilson
One of the most overrated prospects by the media, Wilson came off the board lower than anyone anticipated. However, Cleveland gets a potential steal here as Wilson is a very athletic linebacker about a round lower than his tape warrants.
32nd pick (170th overall) – K Austin Seibert, Oklahoma
16th pick (189th overall) – OT Drew Forbes, Southeast Missouri State
7th pick (221st overall) – CB Donnie Lewis Jr., Tulane
Taking the Browns draft at face value shows an above average haul. They got a major steal in the second round before reaching in the third. They then came back with two solid day three picks before rounding out the rest of their draft with some fliers.
However, the acquisition of Odell Beckham Jr. should be factored into this class. OBJ will be a major contributor to this team in 2019, and while he is already locked into a market rate contract, he is functionally part of this draft class.
10th pick (10th overall) – LB Devin Bush, Michigan
This pick was acquired from Denver in a massive overpay. In order to leapfrog the Bengals, Pittsburgh sent the 20th and 52nd picks of 2019, plus a 2020 third round pick, to obtain the 10th pick and Mr. Bush’s services.
If the Steelers third round pick in 2020 lands exactly where it did in 2019 (83rd) then Pittsburgh well have forfeited 13.4 points worth of draft capital as a result of this trade. 13.4 points of draft capital is equivalent to the 28th pick of the draft. Theoretically, the Steelers sent picks 20 and 28 for pick 10. Horrendous.
To make matters worse, the team selected an off-ball linebacker. Bush is an excellent prospect that I have full faith in becoming a quality NFL player, but the Pittsburgh roster is in no state to fly up the board for an off-ball linebacker. I understand that the team lost Ryan Shazier and this linebacker class was putrid after Bush and Devin White, but this is just a ridiculous mismanagement of assets and the roster.
The Steelers are not Devin Bush away from getting back to the Super Bowl, especially in the wake of shipping out Antonio Brown earlier this offseason. Apparently Pittsburgh felt emboldened by the extra picks they had due to the Brown trade to make this type of move, but their secondary still can’t cover. That figures to be an issue if the team has any intention of preventing the Browns from winning the division in 2019, let alone getting through the Patriots and Chiefs for the AFC title.
2nd pick (66th overall) – WR Diontae Johnson, Toledo
At least Pittsburgh nailed the next pick after the Devin Bush debacle. Diontae Johnson was the most underrated receiver in this class. Johnson is just a technician that understands how to get open. Despite his mediocre combine testing (with similar measurables to Brown), Johnson just moves well on a football field. Johnson and Brown also share a similar build, so it should be no surprise that the Steelers targeted him. This isn’t to say Johnson is going to simply step in and be Antonio Brown 2.0, but he fits what the team lost when Brown was traded to Oakland.
19th pick (83rd overall) – CB Justin Layne, Michigan State
Welp, Pittsburgh is on fire because this is also a steal. Layne should have gone in the top 50 picks, yet here we are. Layne is a long corner that was exceptional in coverage in 2018. He is also a tremendous athlete, having run a 4.50 40 with a 1.55 10-yard split, to go along with a 37.5” vertical, 134” broad jump, and 6.90 3-cone drill.
20th pick (122nd overall) – RB Benny Snell Jr., Kentucky
Back to the luxury picks. I’m not sure what the point is to Snell for a team trying to win now. Pittsburgh had two different running backs step in for Le’Veon Bell in 2018 and the offense didn’t miss a beat. Snell himself is fine at this point in the draft but there were better positions to address here.
3rd pick (141st overall) – TE Zach Gentry Michigan
Woof. Gentry didn’t have a draftable grade and Pittsburgh took him atop round five. While the Steelers have two middling tight ends and no real weapon at the position, this is in no way an upgrade, and is a very bizarre selection.
2nd pick (175th overall) – LB Sutton Smith, Northern Illinois
19th pick (192nd overall) – DT Isaiah Buggs, Alabama
34th pick (207th overall) – LB Ulysees Gilbert III, Akron
5th pick (219th overall) – OG Derwin Gray, Maryland
Devin Bush is a fine player, but the process by which the Steelers ending up selecting him is terrible. This overall performance is being buoyed by the fact that Bush is good, as well as two third round steals. Pittsburgh took a luxury running back before horribly reaching on a tight end, and finally rounded out their draft with four selections in the final two frames.
They did draft the guy with the coolest name in Uysees Gilbert III, however.