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The Turf Draft Grades: AFC North

With the 2019 NFL Draft in the rearview. It’s time to break down the picks and give out grades for each selection in the AFC North.

NFL Draft by swinfinfan is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Turf Draft Grades: AFC North

Estimated Reading Time: 15 Minutes

How did your favorite AFC North team do in the 2019 NFL Draft? Below are my grades for each pick as these 4 clubs set out to determine who will be King in the North when the battles are over and winter comes.

Cleveland Browns

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

Pro Football Focus’ No. 9 prospect is a steal where the Browns got him in the 2nd round. I had him as my No. 2 CB behind Byron Murphy. The 2018 All-American stands 6′ 2″, 182 lbs. He has tremendous reach, ran a 4.37 40-yard dash at the Combine and can easily turn into a No. 1 CB in the Cleveland backfield. The Browns, who gave up their first round pick of Odell, then traded their 49 and 144 picks to Indy to move up three spots, still come away with a first-round talent.

Grade A+

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

He was asked to do a bit of everything at BYU. He plays with passion, but can become reckless and has been known to miss or not finish tackles. The Browns filled a need to gain some depth on their D, and they did. Takitaki is a true prospect with a fifth-round grade who may have been a reach at #80

Grade C+

Round 4, Pick #199: Sheldrick Redwine, S (Miami)

With Damarious Randall at strong safety acquired last year in a deal for Deshone Kizer, the Browns moved to add Morgan Burnett in the offseason. The problem is Burnett is coming off a less than stellar one-season stint with the Steelers. I had Safety as the Browns’ biggest need coming into this draft. A former cornerback Redwine has good arm length and is excellent in run support. He should see plenty of time on special teams while he finds his footing in the Cleveland backfield

Grade B

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

Wilson, a former five-star recruit who dropped to the 5th round over character concerns, is an effective delayed blitzer and physical tackler who did not live up to expectations at Alabama. Wilson is a gamble, but if he can find his game at the NFL level he could end up being a steal for the Browns.

Grade B

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

The Browns parted ways with Zane Gonzalez after several missed field goals and PATs in late September last year. Seibert will compete with Greg Joseph for the kicker position. Hard to get excited about taking a kicker in the 5th round, but he wasn’t the only one as Tampa also drafted Matt Gay in this round.

Grade D

Round 6 Pick #189: Drew Forbes, G (Southeast Missouri State)

This is most likely a depth pick as Drew Forbes is still a little raw for the NFL level. He didn’t have a combine invite or a pro day but his style of play was enough for the Cleveland scouts to notice him. If he really wows in camp, he has an outside shot of making the starting roster

Grade C

Round 7 Pick #No. 221 Donnie Lewis Jr., CB (Tulane)

A versatile player who played boundary corner, nickel and safety over his four years at Tulane, Lewis will need some time to gear his game to the NFL level. He will start out on the practice squad and go from there.

Grade C+

Overall Grade: B
Best Pick: Greedy Williams
Worst Pick: Austin Seibert

Cleveland did well for itself despite not having a 1st round pick. The talk will, of course, be of the moves they made in the offseason, but Greedy Williams and Mack Wilson could end up being game changers.

Cincinnati Bengals

Pick #11, Round 1: Jonah Williams, T (Alabama)

This was a tough break for the Bengals since I’m pretty certain they were looking to take Michigan’s Devin Bush here had the Steelers not swooped in and stole him at Round 10. That said, Jonah WIlliams is the best offensive lineman in the draft. I would have liked to see the Bengals take Haskins here or Brian Burns. They seem set on sticking with Dalton as their QB and took strides to keep him upright in 2019 and beyond, and Williams is the man who can do that. He allowed 0 sacks in 466 snaps at Alabama. It’s just too bad they can’t have two of him to protect Dalton on either side.

Grade: C

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

Pro Football Focus had him as their 192nd prospect. With only the oft-injured Tyler Eifert left at TE, this was definitely a position of need. But they could have gotten a better tight end in a much later round.

Grade: D-

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

The Bengals used this pick to address a need. Pratt is a powerful linebacker that can play anywhere on the line. He lacks mobility, and, despite being a former safety, he will probably best be used in early-down roles.

Grade: B-

Round 4 Pick #104: Ryan Finley, QB (NC State)

By trading up for only the 5th time in the 51 years of the draft, the Bengals finally take a quarterback. It’s clear that the Bengals aren’t ready to move on from Andy Dalton just yet as was driven home by opting to pass on Dwayne Haskins in the first round. Finley will compete for the backup job with Jeff Driskel.

Grade: C

Round 4 Pick #125: Renell Wren, DL (Arizona State)

Great size and athleticism but Wren struggles with consistency. The Cincinnati defense was terrible last year and big-bodied defensive linemen were a major need. Wren can plug the middle and could challenge for a starting position if he has a good camp.

Grade: B-

Round 4 Pick #136: Michael Jordan, OG (OSU)

At 6’7 and 312 lbs. Jordan played guard and center, helping take Ohio State to back to back Big Ten title games. Jordan is only 21, so there is probably some development still needed there. The offensive line was a big need heading into this draft.

Grade: C

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

Trayveon led the SEC in rushing in 2018 with 1,524 yards. He has thrived as a rusher, receiver and blocker and has the agility to break ankles at the line of scrimmage, find a hole and get into the secondary with speed. If he can keep up what he began in college, he could make a dangerous one-two punch with Joe Mixon. And you gotta like the round he was taken in.

Grade: A

Overall Grade: C-
Best Pick: Trayveon Williams
Worst Pick: Drew Sample

When your best pick comes in the 6th round, you have to wonder what they were doing the rest of the draft. I fully believe the Bengals were gearing up to take Devin Bush before the Steelers snagged him. They aren’t ready to move on from Andy Dalton as shown in their passing on Dwayne Haskins. But they aren’t sure just yet as evident by their signing of Ryan Finley. Taking a blocking tight end in the 2nd round is a very Bengals move and may be the single worst pick in this draft. They simply didn’t do enough, looks like it’s gonna be another long year for Bengals fans.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Round 1 Pick #10: Devin Bush, ILB (Michigan)

Devin Bush joins the company of Plaxico Burress, Troy Polamalu and Santonio Holmes as guys the Steelers traded up for in the first round. This fills the biggest need for the Steelers since the Ryan Shazier injury occurred. Bush is a fantastic athlete who ran a 4.43/40 at the combine. In addition to his blazing speed, he is a ruthless tackler and can excel against the run and against the pass. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler had him listed as the No. 2 prospect in this year’s draft behind Kyler Murray. Bush will step in and have an instant impact. If I had to list one negative to this pick, it would be that the Steelers gave up their 2nd round pick to land him, but the need for a strong inside linebacker justified that move.

Grade: A+

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

With the first pick the Steelers acquired in the Antonio Brown trade, the Steelers opting for a fast, yet undersized, wide receiver sounds familiar. It’s hard to discount the success the Steelers have had drafting receivers in the middle rounds, but for every Mike Wallace, there is a Sammie Coates. This seems like a reach for Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin: A 5’10,” small-frame wide receiver from a mid-major with speed who will probably only see time in the return game to start. I would have liked to see them go with Myles Boykin at 6’4” or Hakeem Butler at 6’5” and give Ben Roethlisberger the big target he covets. The Steelers traded AB and came away with a depth piece instead of a playmaker.

Grade: C-

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

With their second pick in the 3rd round, the Steelers hit it out of the park with Justin Layne. Pro Football Focus’s #39 prospect. He fills the second biggest need behind inside linebacker. At 6’2,” 195 lbs. with a 4.5 combine time, he excels at pass breakups, although he probably won’t come down with a lot of interceptions. He is a great athlete and a complete corner. The Steelers signed Steve Nelson in the offseason, so he’ll start opposite Joe Haden, but Layne should see the field in certain passages as he adapts to the NFL game. This addition will probably bump Cam Sutton and Artie Burns to depth roles and Steelers’ fans should be happy about that.

Grade: A

Round 4 Pick #122: Benny Snell, RB (Kentucky)

Snell is a downhill back who is a throwback to the hard-nosed, old-school style of football. He doesn’t shy away from linebackers and his running is true Steelers’ football. He had double-digit touchdowns and 1000+ yards in both 2017 and 2018 on his way to becoming Kentucky’s all-time leading rusher. Snell should challenge Jaylen Samuel for the backup role to James Conner. At worst, he’ll be used as a short-yardage, change-of-pace back. But we could see a one-two punch of Conner and Snell before too long.

Grade: B+

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

At 6’8″ and 265 lbs., Gentry is built like Jesse James whom the Steelers hope he can replace. The former high school QB turned tight end was projected to be a late round or free agency signing, so taking him in the 5th round seems like a bit of a reach. He’s a true prospect that could end up being a serviceable tight end. He’ll have to have a great camp to beat out Xavier Grimble as the positions No. 2. But should Vance McDonald miss anytime due to injury, Gentry could see the field

Grade: C+

Round 6 Pick #175: Sutton Smith, EDGE (Northern Illinois)

There’s a lot to like about this pick. First, Sutton Smith led the nation in sacks in 2017 and finished fourth in 2018. He has a high football IQ and a wide variety of pass-rushing moves, but his smaller size may hinder his ability to get past NFL offensive linemen. There’s a chance he moves to ILB or maybe the Steelers opt to try him out on the EDGE. Either way, it’s low risk taking a flyer on him here. He could end up being a gem, but worst case it’s some added defensive depth

Grade: B

Round 6 Pick #192: Isaiah Buggs, DT (Alabama)

The Steelers add some depth to the line with this pick. Buggs is big, yet slow, but can win the power battles.

Grade: C+

Round 6 Pick #207: Ulysees Gilbert, LB (Akron)

The Steelers continue to add depth to the front seven with this pick. Gilbert tackles well and could wind up contributing on special teams, but for now consider him a defensive prospect.

Grade: C+

Round 7 Pick #219: Derwin Gray, T (Maryland)

Depth for the O-line closes out the draft for the Steelers. Gray is a big guy at 320 lbs. who could serve as a backup if he doesn’t land on the practice squad.

Grade: C+

Best Pick: Devin Bush
Worst Pick: Diontae Johnson

After doing nothing last year to address the ILB position after the Ryan Shazier injury, the Steelers went out and got one of, if not the best, at the position in this year’s draft. They parted with their second-round pick to get the deal done, but felt comfortable with that due to the picks acquired in the trade of Antonio Brown. So chin up Steelers fans, a playmaker did come out of the deal after all. I wasn’t thrilled at the Diontae Johnson selection when there were other receivers with higher grades still available. I also wouldn’t have minded taking Chase Winovich with that pick to upgrade the pass rush. But the Steelers spread it around this draft filling some key needs.

Baltimore Ravens

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

Welcome to Hollywood! Well, Baltimore, but don’t let that discourage you. This was a great pick by the Ravens. Hollywood Brown figures to step in and contribute to the offense in Baltimore. He is undersized for the receiver, but what he lacks there he makes up for with blazing speed and an ability to stretch the field. He fills Baltimore’s top need as they build the team around their young quarterback.

Grade: A

Round 3 Pick #85: Jaylon Ferguson, DE (Louisiana Tech)

The Ravens lost a lot of their key playmakers on the defensive side of the ball this offseason. There was a love/hate relationship with Ferguson by the NFL scouts. He had a good Senior Bowl, but he was disinvited from the Combine over charges of simple battery from his freshman year. The Ravens need some help on D, but it’s hard to get real excited about this pick. With all the top EDGE rushers off the board, it’s worth taking a shot to fill a need

Grade: C+

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

The Ravens continue to add weapons for Lamar Jackson. At 6’4,” 220 lbs., Boykin is a big target and will be hard for Jackson to miss. If “Hollywood” Brown is going to be the one to stretch the field, Miles Boykin will be the one to come down with those contested balls. He had a 43.5-inch vertical jump at the combine. Willie Snead will start opposite Brown this season, but look for Boykin and Brown to be the future wideouts in Baltimore.

Grade: A

Round 4 Pick #133: Justice Hill, RB (Oklahoma State)

The Ravens’ traded with Denver to move in the fourth round and selected Justice Hill. Baltimore signed veteran Mark Ingram to a deal this offseason, but there isn’t much depth behind them. The situation is perfect for Hill to slot into the number two or three spot right out of camp.

Grade: B

Round 4 Pick #123: Ben Powers, G (Oklahoma)

Good hands and a physical blocker, Powers is a good depth-pick here. He won’t win the starting job over Alex Lewis, but Lewis also struggles to stay healthy. Ben Powers will start the season as a backup but should see the field if Alex Lewis can’t play all 16 games.

Grade: B-

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

Also known as “Biggie Iman,” Marshall is an explosive corner with a 73.5-inch wingspan. The former five-star recruit may have peaked early in his first two years vs. his last two at USC, but he’ll look to get back to the form he had early in his college career. Marshall has the potential to be a solid cornerback in the NFL, but time will tell on that.

Grade: C+

Round 5 Pick #160: Daylon Mack, DT (Texas A&M)

Another former five-star recruit, Mack was projected to be a star at Texas A&M, but his college career never lived up to the hype. He may never be a three-down player, but he could see time on early downs.

Grade: C

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

Penn State’s all-time-winningest quarterback’s game shares similarities to Jackson’s, which is what you’d want in a backup. However, at the Combine, McSorley was also asked to work out with the Defensive Backs but he declined. Sorely won’t see time at quarterback, but it would be interesting to see Baltimore use him in other ways. The utility role worked last season for Tayson Hill and this could be a new position NFL teams are eager to explore. We shall see.

Grade: C+ as a quarterback, B+ as a utility player

Best Pick: Marquise Brown
Worst Pick: Ben Powers

The Ravens’ mission in this draft was clear: Build a team around Lamar Jackson and get him as many weapons as possible. This ain’t your father’s Baltimore Ravens. They are looking towards developing a high octane offense with a run-first quarterback, instead of relying on a gritty defense to control the game and scoring points with a sensible pocket passer and hard-nosed running backs. We’ll see how the transition goes.

Christian is husband, father and video editor working in New York City. Originally from the Greater Pittsburgh Area he is a life long fan The Steelers, Penguins and Pirates as well as Professional Wrestling.

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