AFC North: What the Ravens, Bengals, Browns and Steelers Accomplished in the 2019 NFL Draft

Baltimore has gone "Hollywood" in hopes of giving Lamar Jackson a legitimate No. 1 receiver

After every NFL draft, sports journalists tend to give draft grades, dive into the analytics of each draft pick, and sometimes make season predictions based on draft selections alone. But at the end of the day, each team goes into the draft with an objective in mind. These objectives range from team improvement to adding depth or perhaps replacing a star player.

 

When all is said and done each team has achieved some type of goal or objective once the seven rounds have concluded. Here is what each AFC North team accomplished with their selections in the 2019 NFL Draft.

 

Baltimore Ravens

 

Objectives Achieved: Weapons for Lamar Jackson, moving on from Terrell Suggs

With Joe Flacco now in Denver, there's no doubt that Baltimore is Lamar Jackson's team. But that doesn't mean the dynamic, dual-threat quarterback doesn't need some help. As the Ravens adapt their offense to better suit Jackson's skill set, they added some players that should help this process. The revamped receiving corps now includes Oklahoma's Marquise "Hollywood" Brown and Notre Dame's Miles Boykin, while Oklahoma State's Justice Hill has been added to the backfield mix. If Jackson can take the next step in his development as a passer, this offense could be fun to watch in 2019.

 

And it's only fitting that Baltimore bids farewell to Suggs, its all-time sacks leader by replacing him with someone he's already connected to. As part of the Ravens' massive makeover on defense, Suggs signed with Arizona as a free agent, taking his career 132.5 sacks with him. Before becoming the 10th overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft, Suggs set the NCAA's all-time sack record (44) while starring at Arizona State. That was until Louisiana Tech's Jaylon Ferguson broke it last season with sack No. 45.

 

So who did the Ravens take in the third round (85th overall)? That's right Ferguson, who likely will line up at outside linebacker in Baltimore's 3-4, a spot Suggs has manned the past 16 seasons. Suggs is one of the greatest players in franchise history, but if Ferguson produces immediately it will make it easier for Ravens fans to move on.

 

Cincinnati Bengals

 

Objective Achieved: Filled potential holes

The Bengals were eventually going to need help on both sides of the line of scrimmage, inject some youth into the tight end position, add depth at linebacker, and most importantly, start preparing for the post-Andy Dalton era. Cincinnati got a head start on these needs by addressing them through its 10-man draft class.

The headliners include Alabama offensive tackle Jonah Williams, Washington tight end Drew Sample, and NC State quarterback Ryan Finley. But don't forget about fellow Wolfpack linebacker Germaine Pratt, as well as Arizona State defensive tackle Renell Wren, Ohio State guard Michael Jordan, and Auburn linebacker Deshaun Davis. How many of these end up being quality NFL starters remains to be seen, but you at least have to give the Bengals credit for being proactive.

 

Cleveland Browns

 

Objective Achieved: Bolstered their defense

The rapidly improving Browns have already made headlines by acquiring Odell Beckham Jr. this offseason. So with the offense in excellent shape, Cleveland used this year's draft to load up on defense (and don't forget about also getting Olivier Vernon in the trade with the Giants for ODB). Even with no first-round selection, the Browns made another trade to move up a few spots in the second to land LSU cornerback Greedy Williams, who many had projected would go on the first night of the draft.

 

Besides Williams, Cleveland added to their depth in the secondary by selecting Miami safety Sheldrick Redwine in the fourth round and Tulane corner Donnie Lewis Jr. in the seventh. Linebacker also was addressed by taking BYU's Sione Takitaki (3rd round) and Alabama's Mack Wilson (5th round). With all of the moves the Browns have made it sure looks like they are serious about ending their postseason drought this year.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers

 

Objective Achieved: Keeping the defensive talent pipeline going

The history of the Steelers defense speaks for itself. Since the days of Chuck Noll, the Steelers have never been without a stable of excellent defensive players. And this year’s draft was no different as they went heavy on this side of the ball. The biggest move was trading up in the first round to get Michigan linebacker Devin Bush with the 10th pick. The hope is that Bush will fill the hole that has been present ever since Ryan Shazier went down late in the 2017 season with that tragic neck injury.

 

Besides Bush, Pittsburgh took Akron's Ulysees Gilbert III to add to its linebacker depth and bolstered the secondary with the selection of Michigan State cornerback Justin Layne in the third round. Defensive line didn't go ignored either, as edge rusher Sutton Smith from Northern Illinois and Alabama defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs were both drafted in the sixth round. With the offense going through some changes, it may be up to the defense to carry more of the load early on. One thing is for sure, the Steelers have certainly added some intriguing new pieces to the equation on that side of the ball.


— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.

 

(Top photo courtesy of @Ravens)

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