NFL Draft Review/Grades: AFC North

With the draft finished, it’s time to analyze each team’s selections! Let’s start in the AFC North, where although one team didn’t have a first-round pick (Browns), all added high profile players to boost their playoff chances. Who had the best draft in this division, and who will make the biggest impact? Let’s take a closer look.

Baltimore Ravens

hollywood ravens
Photo Cred: Baltimore Sun

Full Draft (With Grade)

Round 1, Pick 25: WR Marquise Brown, Oklahoma (B)

Round 3, Pick 85:  EDGE Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech (A)

Round 3, Pick 93: WR Miles Boykin, Notre Dame (A-)

Round 4, Pick 113: RB Justice Hill, Oklahoma State (A)

Round 4, Pick 123: OG Ben Powers, Oklahoma (A)

Round 4, Pick 127: CB Iman Marshall, USC (A-)

Round 5, Pick 160: DT Dayton Mack, Texas A&M (B+)

Round 6, Pick 197: QB Trace McSorley, Penn State (B)

Grade: B+

Despite not possessing a second-round pick after using it to trade up for Lamar Jackson last year, the Ravens had a very solid draft. In the first round, the team traded back three spots for a fourth and sixth round pick. After doing so, the team selected wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown out of Oklahoma, hoping to upgrade a receiving corps that has been cut into with the losses of Michael Crabtree and John Brown. Although Hollywood doesn’t possess the ideal frame that would be nice to have to play with a not very accurate quarterback in Lamar Jackson, he is an elite separator and should help Jackson’s progression as a passer. In addition, his speed should also allow him to be effective in an offensive that uses their playmakers in unique ways.

The team then filled another major hole at edge rusher, selecting Louisiana Tech edge rusher Jaylon Ferguson with the 85th overall pick. Ferguson, who had 17.5 sacks in his last year in college, was thought of by some as a late first to early second round pick, and he could very well start right away for Baltimore; getting him in the third round is a terrific value. Adding Myles Boykin, with an impressive 6’4” frame, in the third round could also turn out to be huge for the team; he has a very high upside, and if he can polish his route running, he could be the big target that Jackson needs.

With three picks in the fourth round, the team did a terrific job to add depth and long-term pieces. Running back Justice Hill is a quick, explosive runner who can catch add out of the backfield; he complements running backs Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards tremendously. Cornerback Iman Marshall has the ideal length for a cornerback and could be a future starter with Jimmy Smith a free agent after next year and with Brandon Carr being 33-years-old. Plus, after guard Alex Lewis struggled last season, adding an experience, physical type interior offensive lineman in Ben Powers was an outstanding move.

At the end of day three, the team added defensive tackle Dayton Mack and quarterback Trace McSorley. Mack is a former high recruit that is a massive space-eater with potential to be a useful asset, so taking a chance on him in the fifth round makes sense. McSorley will never have the skill as a passer to be a useful starting or even backup quarterback, but his athleticism could make him a linchpin on an offense, similar to Taysom Hill with the Saints.

After dominating the fourth round, and getting it right with their top picks as well, the Ravens are in a much better position to contend this season. This was a very productive draft that addressed a lot of key holes.

Cincinnati Bengals

NFL Draft
Photo Cred: Stripe Hype

Full Draft (With Grade)

Round 1, Pick 11: OL Jonah Williams, Alabama (A-)

Round 2, Pick 52: TE Drew Sample, Washington (D)

Round 3, Pick 72: LB Germaine Pratt, NC State (A-)

Round 4, Pick 104: QB Ryan Finley, North Carolina State (C-)

Round 4, Pick 125: DT Renell Wren, Arizona State (B)

Round 4, Pick 136: OG Michael Jordan, Ohio State (A-)

Round 6, Pick 182: RB Trayveon Williams, Texas A&M (B+)

Round 6, Pick 210: LB Deshaun Davis, Auburn (B)

Round 6, Pick 211: RB Rodney Anderson (B+)

Round 7, Pick 223: CB Jordan Brown, South Dakota State (B)

Grade: B

As per usual, the Bengals played it safe in the draft, selecting polished products from major schools. That started with Alabama offensive lineman Jonah Williams, who the team selected with the 11th overall pick. It looks like he’ll get a shot to start at tackle for this team, but even if he ends on the interior at some point, he fills a critical need on the offensive line. Although it wasn’t the flashy pick, adding a young, yet tested offensive lineman in Williams was a great move, and should help new head coach Zac Taylor run his offense better.

The team made another non-flashy selection in round two, picking up tight end Drew Sample. However, unlike the Williams pick, this move made zero sense. Although the team lost Tyler Kroft in free agency, they still had a deep enough tight end room with Tyler Eifert and CJ Uzomah, and this is a position that could have been addressed later in the draft. Plus, with so many other tight ends left on the board, including Jace Steinberger, a blocking tight end in Sample likely would have been available later in the draft. If not, it would not have been a major loss for the team. Cincinnati did do better in round three, grabbing athletic linebacker Germaine Pratt. The team had a critical need at linebacker that they likely would have addressed in the first round if the top two linebackers weren’t off the board by their pick, and Pratt could be set to earn playing time right away.

For some strange reason, the Bengals felt compelled to trade up for quarterback Ryan Finley in the fourth round. Even if they didn’t have to trade up, there were some many better prospects available  (DB Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, WR Riley Ridley, LB Mack Wilson) to fill more critical needs that backup quarterback, that this pick was simply poor. It also doesn’t help that Finley doesn’t have starter upside, and has the profile of a backup at best who likely maxed out in college. Adding a nose tackle in Renell Wren is fine value in the fourth round, but the best pick in this round was selecting Michael Jordan, whom the team traded up for. Jordan had a very solid tenure at Ohio State, and with Williams, Cincinnati’s offensive line should be much improved.

In round six, the Bengals added two running backs: Trayveon Williams and Rodney Anderson. Williams, an explosive, receiving back and Anderson, who has starter upside despite injury issues, are both steals. However, their running back depth was already shored up, so while these are solid value picks, they aren’t necessarily great picks for them specifically. Linebacker Dashaun Davis (Round 6) and cornerback Jordan Brown (Round 7), meanwhile, provide some depth and that’s about it.

By selecting Williams and Jordan this year, along with Billy Price last season, the Bengals have actually put together a solid offensive line for the future. Combine that with the selection of Pratt and getting good value with their running back selections, and the team had a solid draft. However, the Sample and Finley picks were head-scratching, lowering the team’s final grade and preventing them from earning an “A”.

Cleveland Browns

greedy williams
Photo Cred: NBC Sports

Full Draft (With Grades)

Round 2, Pick 46: CB Greedy Williams, LSU (A+)

Round 3, Pick 80: LB Sione Takitaki, BYU (B-)

Round 4, Pick 119: S Sheldrick Redwine, Miami (B+)

Round 5, Pick 155: LB Mack Wilson, Alabama (A)

Round 5, Pick 170: K Austin Seibert, Oklahoma (C)

Round 6, Pick 189: OL Drew Forbes, SE Missouri State (B)

Round 7, Pick 221: CB Donnie Lewis Jr., Tulane (B+)

Grade: A-

The Browns may have traded their first-round pick and one of their third rounds pick in a package for receiver Odell Beckham Jr., but that didn’t stop them from having a great draft. Landing cornerback Greedy Williams, who I personally thought was worthy of a top 15 pick, in the second-round was an absolute heist. With excellent coverage skills, straight-line speed, and length, Williams will start right away opposite of Denzel Ward and fills a need in the secondary. Plus, his length complements Ward, a smaller, feisty cornerback, exceptionally. Linebacker Sione Takitaki comes with some risk with some off-the-field concerns, but he’s a solid tackler who provides needed linebacker depth.

Sheldrick Redwine in the fourth round was a solid pick; safety was a major need, and Redwine could see some playing time right away. Linebacker Mack Wilson, once though off as a first-round prospect, is an absolute steal in the fifth round; he’s an Alabama project with the upside to be an above average linebacker, and there’s no risk with him given where he was selected. It’s always strange to take a kicker before the sixth or seventh round, but the Browns had a horrible special teams unit last season; they sort of get away with taking Austin Seibert in the fifth round. Offensive lineman Drew Forbes is a small-school product, but he has a sturdy frame and provides offensive line depth. Meanwhile, Donnie Lewis Jr. has some solid coverage skills and provides corner depth that is usually tough to find in the late seventh round.

By practically stealing Williams and potentially stealing Wilson, the Browns may have found two impact starters despite not having their first-round pick and one of their third-round picks. They had some questionable picks besides those two, but Williams, in particular, is such a terrific fit, that an “A-” is the absolute minimum the team deserves for drafting him in the second-round.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Photo Cred: Behind The Steel Curtain

Full Draft (With Grade)

Round 1, Pick 10: LB Devin Bush, Michigan (A)

Round 3, Pick 66: WR Diontae Johnson, Toledo (C+)

Round 3, Pick 83: CB Justin Layne, Michigan State (A+)

Round 4, Pick 122: RB Benny Snell Jr., Kentucky (D)

Round 5, Pick 141: TE Zach Gentry, Michigan (B+)

Round 6, Pick 175: OLB Sutton Smith, Northern Illinois (A)

Round 6, Pick 192: DL Isaiah Buggs, Alabama (A)

Round 6, Pick 207: OLB Ulysses Gilbert III, Akron (B)

Round 7, Pick 219: OT Derwin Gray, Maryland (B)

Grade: A-

Heading into next season in a new era after moving on from both Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers needed to add some talent through the draft to fill pressing needs. Their main need? An athletic linebacker, which they acquired when they traded up to the 10th overall pick to select Michigan linebacker Devin Bush. He’s the type of player they have been needing since they lost linebacker Ryan Shazier during the 2017 season due to a gruesome injury, and could change the course of the team’s season. The price to trade up wasn’t cheap (2019 second-round pick, 2020 third-round pick), but it didn’t cost a future first-round pick, and since the team had an extra third-round pick and is in line to receive a compensatory pick for losing Bell, they could afford to part ways with those picks to get an absolute game-changer for the middle of their defense.

In the third round, the team may have been looking to replace Brown, drafting Toledo receiver Dionte Johnson. Some of Johnson’s skills in the screen game and as a returner are redundant with Ryan Switzer on the roster, and a more polished receiver such as Riley Ridley would have been a more ideal pick. Still, Johnson improves this receiving crops and undoubtedly is another weapon for Ben Roethlisberger to utilize. Arguably one of the best picks in this entire draft was the team selecting cornerback Justin Layne with the 83rd overall pick; he has the ideal length, speed, and polish to start for the Steelers right away, which fills a major hole opposite of Joe Haden at cornerback.

Pittsburgh didn’t get off to a good start on day three by selecting Kentucky running back Benny Snell Jr., who is practically a clone of running back James Conner. Running backs are supposed to complement one another, not be the exact same player; Pittsburgh still lacks an explosive option out of the backfield with receiving skills. Zach Gentry is a project at tight end, but if he works out, his 6’8” frame could allow him to fill the void left behind by Jesse James, who signed with the Lions. Sutton Smith likely will be an off-ball linebacker, but given how much the Steelers like the blitz with their linebackers, his pass rushing skills will be utilized. Alabama defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs could be the steal of this class; he’s an excellent fit in Pittsburgh’s base 3-4 defensive scheme. To top it off, linebacker Ulysses Gilbert III and offensive lineman Derwin Gray add some depth in key spots.

The Steelers needed to upgrade at two positions: linebacker and cornerback. They did just that, and although it wasn’t a perfect draft, this was definitely one of the best drafts in terms of accomplishing main objectives.

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