Fantasy Football

2019 NFL Draft Perfect Fits: AFC North


I can smell draft night already. If you’re reading this, your probably just as excited as I am and are looking to eat up as much draft content as you can until the big day.

Well, you’re in luck. Of all the “Perfect Fits” articles I’ve dropped so far, this one features some of my favorite prospects we’ll get to see realize their childhood dreams less than a week from now.

Where you’re slightly less lucky, is that we’ll most likely have to wait an extra day or two before hearing these names called up. Or is that even better? You’re right, it is better.

I’m excited about this one so let’s dive right in!

2019 NFL Draft Perfect Fits: AFC North

Cleveland Browns

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Jim Dorsey is quite a straightforward GM when it comes to the draft. He sees a player he likes; he goes and gets him. Needs aren’t a major concern if he’s got his eyes on a talented prospect. In other words, he tends to go for the best player available.

Cleveland doesn’t own a first-round pick this year, after two straight years of multiple day one selections. Their first-round selection was part of a hefty deal, which sent guard Kevin Zeitler, safety Jabrill Peppers, and a third-round pick for Odell Beckham Jr and Olivier Vernon. Worth it, if you ask me.

Buzz has been building between the Cleveland Browns and Jeffery Simmons for the past month and as they say: where there is smoke, there is fire.

The cumulation of two separate circumstances has put Simmons’ stock at risk of sliding into day two. The former Bulldog tore his ACL early in February, which may knock him out of play for year one. A forced redshirt season doesn’t look attractive for teams with immediate needs along the defensive line, which may slide him to an early day two selection. He’ll best fit a team who’s willing and has the depth to wait on his talent to hit the field season two.

The second issue is a more serious one. In March 2016 (only an incoming freshman at the time), a video emerged showing an altercation between a woman and the Mississippi State player. Awful really. Simmons was charged with disturbing the peace by fighting. Logically, when the NFL caught this on their radar, they suspended Simmons from the NFL Combine. NFL teams must’ve dug deeper into Simmons’ character. Whether this will impact his draft stock will depend on teams’ perception of the events and how Simmons’ and his surroundings describe the evolution of his behavior since.

Nevertheless, we must stick to evaluating his performances on the field, while putting off-field concerns aside. And in that matter, the talent is undeniable. Simmons is a physical freak who has the strength to bully blockers off the line. He can penetrate into the backfield with ease thanks to a phenomenal leg drive.

The Cleveland Browns love violent, hard-nosed players in their defense and he fits that bill. He can rush the passer and be a presence in the running game. His length easily allows him to catch running backs trying to run past him.

Considering the Brown’s d-line is already stacked with talent (Garrett, Vernon and Ogunjobi), they can afford to have Simmons redshirt a season before making an impact in the starting rotation.

Cincinnati Bengals

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The Bengals really need to fix the defensive side of the ball. They’ve welcomed Lou Anarumo as their new defensive coordinator, a guy that isn’t really set on a specific scheme (at least as of now). However, we do know the staff he’s surrounded himself with has experience in a 3-4 system, which could be a sign that the Bengals will look for versatility from the linebacker position.

With the departure of Vontaze Burfict, it seems like Preston Brown is destined to be moved to inside backer. This would open up a spot on the outside potentially for a rookie.

The Bengals could make this pick late day two or even day three with this prospect. I mentioned the possibility of the Bengals looking to add versatility to their linebacker corp and Terrill Hanks out of New Mexico State offers just that. He’s a former safety turned outside linebacker (3-4) with tremendous cover skills. He has the seventh biggest wingspan of the linebackers present at the combine (80 1/8″), which translates on tape with numerous batted balls (both in pass rush and in coverage). Length is such an important asset at the next level. I believe he may truly be a diamond in the rough for the Bengals, or any team looking for a 3-4 outside linebacker and here is why.

You may be saying great, so he can obviously cover as he was a safety, but he’s a linebacker so can he make the right reads? Fill the right gaps? Tackle an NFL running back? As do many of the linebackers in this shallow class, Hanks comes with his question marks. But one thing’s for sure, when he hits, you can hear that pop from the parking lot. He’s got his share of whiffs and missed arm tackles, but technique can be refined. He’s got the instincts to play linebacker, recognizing plays on-time and getting to the ball efficiently.

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I must comment on his speed due to his 40 time at the combine for those that didn’t watch. Yes, 4.98s looks slow, but what the number doesn’t show is the injured hamstring he suffered during that run. He’s a 4.6 guy on tape (at least). Teams that are onto him are well aware of this. Hanks caught some buzz when 18 NFL teams showed up at the Aggie pro-day to meet with him, a bigger crowd than he expected, he said. Also featuring some positional coaches (a rare feat at a pro-day, especially at New Mexico State).

Some have also called him undersized (6’02”) for the NFL linebacker position. Sometimes, you just gotta look past the measurables and quantitative reasoning. Hanks is just a tremendous football player. And when you’re good at football, you get on the football field. The immediate impact he can have covering tight ends, and running backs out of the backfield is unquantifiable and to me, most definitely worth a day three investment.

Pittsburgh Steelers

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The Steelers need secondary help. So let’s help them find some coverage pieces. The Steelers’ first-round pick is in an optimal position to draft a high-quality corner. They can use that pick to get their guy to the opposite of Joe Haden. The Steelers went for a safety in the first round last year with Terrell Edmunds. I still stand by my thoughts that this was an egregious reach, but going after another safety in round one seems a bit bold for Colbert.

Edmunds deserves his time to develop. With that said, they will soon face a decision at free safety with Sean Davis‘ rookie contract expiring after the 2019 season. I’m one to think they may let him walk, and especially if they make the decision I’m about to make in day two of the draft.

Day two is potentially filled with awesome safety prospects to choose from. And one of them seems like a perfect fit for the free safety position in Pittsburgh. Another Maryland safety to take up the torch after Sean Davis: Darnell Savage.

How many times have you heard this one: Savage really does live up to his name (get ready to hear that punchline on draft night peeps). Seriously though, he really does. He hits harder than a Monday morning after a three-day weekend when he comes at you with a run-up. Savage possesses tremendous ball skills and profiles as an ideal cover-two free safety at the next level. He breaks on the ball with great explosion and he closes the deed. Seven picks in two seasons with Maryland tells a good part of the story.

You like measurables? He’s got measurables. 4.36s. Yep, that’s his 40-time. Want a ball hawk with range in his legs? He’s your guy. To replace a safety with four picks in three seasons, Savage seems like a good shout. There really is no overestimating this man’s instincts at the safety position. Let him roam, he’ll make the plays. Not only does he spy the eyes of quarterbacks extremely well, but he also anticipates breaks and understands route patterns so well it’s hard to pass up.

However, at 5’10” and 198 lbs; there’s no denying Savage is undersized. But he sure doesn’t play like it. Paired up with Terrell Edmunds in run support, he should be alright. I must be honest and admit I’d be worried if he faces an NFL running back running at him one on one as the last man to beat. If he has to catch anyone from behind, however, I’d trust him 100%.

Savage is a tough prospect to bet against as he just makes his plays. Again, here’s another great football player that will make any defensive coordinator a happy camper.

Baltimore Ravens

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The Ravens lost a key piece of their defense to free agency in C.J. Mosley. The star linebacker only missed one pro-bowl and all-pro selection since being drafted. His 2015 season where he still accounted for 117 tackles, seven pass deflections, four sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and a touchdown… Saying that finding a replacement at linebacker in this draft will be hard is an understatement. But hey, they don’t really have a choice.

I would’ve made a case for the Ravens going back to the well in Tuscaloosa and picking up Mack Wilson if I hadn’t sent him to the Eagles in the last article. So let’s get creative. With this pick, the Ravens can end up waiting until late day two or even early day three. But in my mind, this guy holds tremendous value. This defense has always had the makeup of a hard-hitting defense, and with the arrival of ETIII, that’s not going to change.

You got Terrill Hanks two picks ago, here’s another versatile linebacker: Germaine Pratt of N.C. State. Pratt is another safety turned linebacker which fits that modern mold we’re increasingly seeing in the NFL.

Even though Pratt started only one season at N.C. State, he’s gathered experience playing both as an inside and outside backer. As a former safety (and as you’d expect), he shows very good pass coverage skills. But what stands out is his above average understanding for passing concepts demonstrating tremendous football IQ on tape. He recognizes plays very fast which helps in run defense as well, as he fills gaps very efficiently (and the right ones). He has good pass rushing ability to round out a very diverse skill set which could attract a defense like the Ravens’.

The one worry I have about Pratt’s game is his tendency to get caught up in traffic and by blocks against zone-running schemes. Following a comfortable showing at the NFL Combine, worries concerning Pratt’s athleticism are now irrelevant. After weighing in at 6’02” and 240lbs, Pratt clocked a 4.57 on the 40-yard dash and stood out during on-field workouts. He’s an intriguing prospect I can’t wait to see on the NFL scene in August.

Looking for more NFL Draft content as we edge closer to the big day? Make sure to check out our 2019 NFL Mock Draft!

2019 NFL Draft Perfect Fits       
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About Selyan Lonqueux

NFL Draft analyst.

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