NFL Draft Talk Volume LXV
The 2019 NFL draft is officially in the books and there were some teams that knocked it out of the park and made the most of nearly every pick and there were others that did a decent job or hardly moved the needle after the three-day event was concluded. Here are the draft grades for each team by division: AFC North • Baltimore Ravens: A First-year General Manager Eric DeCosta did a pretty good job in his inaugural draft as the head of organization’s decision making process after taking over for his longtime friend and mentor Ozzie Newsome who had been at the helm of the Ravens personnel department since the team’s inception in 1996 before stepping back into a reduced role following last season. Newsome has been the gold standard for GMs across the league for over two decades and went out with a bang in last year’s draft by selecting the teams’ new franchise quarterback Lamar Jackson and many other players that contributed to the team’s return to the postseason in 2018. DeCosta kicked off his first draft by selecting taking a player who not only met what many believed was the team’s biggest need but a great value pick in Oklahoma speedster Marquise Hollywood Brown after trading back from No.22 to No.25 on the first night of the draft. Brown gives the Ravens offense the quick-strike ability that their grind it out attack from last year was sorely missing. They would also double down at the position as they build it from the ground up when they traded up in the late third to select high-ceiling receiver from Notre Dame Miles Boykin at No.93 overall to give second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson a big-bodied receiver with a large catch radius. Before they traded up for Boykin, they selected talented pass rusher from Louisiana Tech Jaylon Ferguson with their first pick in the third round at No.85 overall. They were elated to have the highly productive edge defender who broke franchise all-time sack leader Terrel Suggs’ college career sack record with 45. They lost Suggs and last year’s leading sack artist ZaDarius Smith in free agency last month so they will be glad to have Ferguson line up across from breakout outside linebacker Matt Judon for years to come. With his size and strength, he can even rush from the inside in sub-packages as they did with Smith during his time in Baltimore. They got a speedy running back to add to their backfield of bruisers in Justice Hill of Oklahoma State in the fourth round at No.113 overall and may have very well found their long-term solution at left guard in Ben Powers of Oklahoma 10 picks later at No.123 overall. In the sixth round, they drafted what many believe to be the next Julian Edelman or Taysom Hill in the sixth round when they selected Penn State quarterback/utility player Trace McSorley with their final pick at No.197 overall. They also made one of the biggest splashes in undrafted free agency when they signed Miami defensive tackle Gerald Willis who many believed was a late day two too early day three talent. • Cincinnati Bengals: A- Their draft class has the potential to be a truly transformational haul for the team as they enter a new era under first-year head coach Zac Taylor. It all started with their first-round pick on Thursday when their search for Andrew Whitworth’s replacement at left tackle finally ended when they selected Alabama’s Jonah Williams at No.11 overall. They selected playmaking linebacker Germaine Pratt from N.C. State in the third round at No.72 overall. The converted safety will slide into the spot vacated by Vontaze Burfict who the team released after having trouble staying on the field because of injuries and suspensions. In the fourth round, they picked up a trio of players that could be future starters for the team in the near future. At No.104 overall, they selected Pratt’s N.C. State teammate Ryan Finley who many pundits believe is arguably the most pro-ready quarterback in this class and could take the reigns of the team’s offense if Andy Dalton doesn’t impress the new regime enough in the next few years. They also selected Arizona State defensive tackle Renell Wren and center/guard Michael Jordan at No.125 and No.136 overall. In the sixth round, they added a pair of game-breaking running backs who dominated in college to an already talented backfield in Treyveon Williams of Texas A&M at No.182 overall and Rodney Anderson of Oklahoma at No.211. • Cleveland Browns: B- After having a fantastic outing in free agency, the “talk of the town” Browns were able to pick a pair of dominant SEC defensive players that slid a lot further than experts anticipated. With their first pick, they traded up in the second to take LSU corner Greedy Williams who was once viewed as a top 10 pick early on in the draft process at No.46 overall. They stopped the freefall of Alabama middle linebacker Mack Wilson in the fifth round when they selected him at No.155 overall. After trading Kevin Zeitler to the New York Giants in March, they probably should’ve addressed the guard position before the sixth round when they took Drew Forbes of Southeast Missouri State at No.189 overall. • Pittsburgh Steelers: A They addressed positions of need with highly rated players who have the potential to make immediate impacts as rookies especially their first four picks. They traded up on day one to fill the hole that injured inside linebacker Ryan Shazier left when he went down with his horrific injury with Michigan State linebacker Devin Bush at No.10 overall. In the third round, they picked a receiver that will help offset the loss of All-Pro Antonio Brown in Toledo’s Diontae Johnson and stud corner with excellent press and man cover skills in Justin Layne of Michigan State In the middle of the fourth round, they picked the bulldozing running back from Kentucky Benny Snell Jr. who will complement Pro Bowler James Conner in their backfield at No.122 overall. In the sixth round, they drafted interior defensive lineman from Alabama Isiah Buggs who could prove to be a late round gem at No.192 overall.