By Kate Arhar // @ClvlndK8
The 2019 NFL Draft has come and gone.
Since the Cleveland Browns are “my” team, I thought I’d try to take an objective look at the AFC North division overall and see who did the most to improve their roster. I said I’d TRY to be objective, but no promises…
When it comes to numbers, the division kind of stair-stepped up: Cleveland had 7, Baltimore had 8, Pittsburgh had 9 and Cincinnati chose a whopping 10 players.
As to positions, Defense has 17, Offense had 16 and there was one kicker taken. Yes, you read that right… my Browns took a kicker in the 5th round… we’ll talk more about that later…
After finishing 6-10 last season and at the bottom of the division, the Cincinnati Bengals took six offensive players to bolster their sputtering point scoring unit. Two running backs, one tight end, and one quarterback were in the mix. QB prospect Ryan Finley out of NC State could develop into the replacement for Andy Dalton. While Jeff Driskel, in his 4th season in the NFL, did ok when he filled in for an injured Dalton last year, he’s not the future of the franchise. Finley does have that
In his draft prospect previews, ESPN’s Todd McShay had this to say about Finley:
“I think Finley can be an NFL starter. He has very fast eyes and reads the defense better than any of the other quarterbacks in the class. But even if he doesn’t materialize into a franchise guy, this pick was still very good. The worse case here is the Bengals drafted a good backup QB at No. 104 overall. The best case? Finley has the talent to potentially win the starting gig as soon as 2020 for Cincinnati. Andy Dalton has two years left on his deal, but the Bengals could cut Dalton before the 2020 season with no dead money attached if Finley is ready to be the guy.”
OT Jonah Williams out of Alabama is another huge improvement. At 6-foot-5, 305-pounds, he was the first offensive lineman taken in this defense-heavy draft at #11 in the first round. He has the ability to charge through a lineman, take him down, then get to a linebacker, then to a safety, all on one play.
— Jonah Williams (@JonahGWilliams) April 26, 2019
He should greatly improve the run game in Cincinnati; they only had 1,682 rushing yards last season while giving up over 2,200. They really needed to improve on this aspect of the game in order to open the field back up for pro-bowl wide receiver A.J. Green.
Narrowly missing the playoffs, the Pittsburgh Steelers needed to shore up a defense that wasn’t quite up to standard last season. The loss of Ryan Shazier to injury has had lasting effects both on and off the field. He has been placed on the PUP list and most experts agree he will not play in 2019, however that has not stopped him from working towards getting back on the field.
In the first round, with pick #10, they chose Devin Bush, Inside Linebacker, Michigan. At 5’11”, 234lbs, Bush has that outstanding combination of speed, intensity, & physicality. He’s noted to have great footwork and burst. He’s serious & studious, takes the game seriously. Oh, and he is also the son of former NFL defensive back Devin Bush, Sr.
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) April 26, 2019
The Steelers are notorious for never moving up in the draft, but the fact that they did in order to get Bush says a lot. They have always valued speed in the defense, especially up the middle, so losing Shazier was a devastating blow. Bush definitely has the skill set to bring that fire and speed back to the middle of that defense.
The Baltimore Ravens, with rookie QB Lamar Jackson under center, did indeed make the playoffs last year, only to get bounced in the first round by the Los Angeles Chargers 23-17. In looking back at the game, it was the offense that couldn’t seem to get anything done for the Ravens and seemed to be their biggest area of need going into the draft.
Enter first-round pick #25 Marquise “Hollywood” Browns, wide receiver, Oklahoma. If he could catch passes from Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, this kid must have talent! And while Jackson is great at running around, he needs quality targets if they are going to turn him into a pocket-passer and keep him healthy.
Marquise Brown upgrades the Raven’s receiving corps instantly upon his arrival. pic.twitter.com/ZDMOdmXEEt
— PFF College (@PFF_College) April 28, 2019
He may be considered small at 5’9” and 166 pounds, but he’s fast. Long term durability could be a concern due to his size. but he’s the threat on deep passes that the Ravens need and he possesses elite run-after-catch talent. And, by the way, he’s the cousin of former Steelers, current Raiders, WR Antonio Brown who they are all too familiar with in Baltimore.
And now we come to the Cleveland Browns. After year upon year of arguing over which QB they were going to take, this draft was entirely different. Not only do they not need a QB, but they also didn’t even have a first round pick since they traded #17 to the New York Giants for WR Odel Beckham, Jr. This year was just bizarre in that they handled the draft like a professional organization, didn’t reach for players and did their best to shore up the defensive side of the ball where there were so many needs.
But in what has turned into the most controversial topic in Cleveland… They drafted a Kicker in the 5th round. Yep, Austin Seibert out of Oklahoma was their choice. And really, how can I complain? While we may fuss about dropped passes or referees who do/don’t call penalties, it’s the missed field goals and extra points that haunt many a fan for weeks – even years – after the season has ended.
— ChadP71 Ridin’ with 6 (@chadp71) April 30, 2019
And I’m willing to be that while general manager John Dorsey was scouting QB Baker Mayfield during his Oklahoma days, he got a look at their kicker. And this season he just added more impressive numbers to his stat line. Seibert is the leading scorer in Oklahoma and Big 12 history. He ranks first among FBS kickers in career points, breaking the record held by former Browns kicker and seventh-round pick Zane Gonzalez.
Seibert was 63 of 79 in field goal attempts. He converted 17 of 19 attempts in 2018 and 17 of 21 attempts in 2019. He was Oklahoma’s first-ever Big 12 special teams player of the year in 2018 and was a first-team All-Big 12 selection by the league’s coaches and the Associated Press. Not too shabby.
Fans are complaining that it is a “wasted” pick. I disagree. If he pans out, it’s genius. If it doesn’t, well, tell me how many other 5th round picks will actually make their team rosters this fall? Exactly. Any player is a long-shot in that round. (DO NOT bring up Tom Brady. I mean it!) Dorsey and head coach Freddie Kitchens have been very clear on the level of competition they want to see in camp for every position. If nothing else, current kicker Greg Joseph will have to step up his game if he doesn’t want to lose his roster spot to the rookie.
That’s it for the AFC North this week. Which team do you think to improve the most?
Talk football with Kate on Twitter // @ClvlndK8