The AFC North seems to be wide open in 2019. Outside of the Bengals, any team can lay a legitimate claim to the top spot. Each team is also not without question marks. Pittsburgh is replacing Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown on offense. Cleveland has a young team who are already being called the favorites. The Ravens lost significant pieces on defense and need to address what the offense will be in 2019. To put it plainly, the division has the potential to be amazing, or a dumpster fire. In preparation of the coming season, we take a look at the rookies from each AFC North contender, and name our Feast or Famine players.
AFC North Rookies
Williams was viewed by many, as the top cornerback in the 2019 draft. As a redshirt-freshman at LSU, Williams started 13 games, finishing with six interceptions and ten passes defensed. He earned first-team SEC and third-team All American honors as a result. His sophomore season ended with a second selection on the SEC’s first-team, and a second-team All American selection. His interception total dropped to just two, but he had also solidified himself as the top corner on the LSU defense.
The Browns selected Williams with the 14th pick in the second round. He was Cleveland’s first selection of the draft. In Cleveland, Williams joins a talented defense, including second-year cornerback Denzel Ward. On paper, the Browns may have the best secondary in the division, if not the conference. Williams has the length and speed to stay with receivers downfield, while showing instincts to pattern-match in coverage. The rookie has shown the occasional struggle to locate the ball downfield, but that is something that can be fine tuned with proper coaching. What can’t be taught is the natural talent.
How much of a wide receiver’s college production is due to scheme, level of play, and quality of surrounding talent? Marquise Brown will put this to the test. The Ravens selected Brown in the first round. Baltimore needed a playmaker on offense, especially one with the speed to take the top off of the defense. Brown has ample speed. He also averaged 18 yard per catch over two seasons at Oklahoma. Over just two seasons as a Sooner, Brown averaged 66 catches, 1,200 yards receiving, and eight touchdowns. At face value, Brown was deserving of his first round selection and is someone to watch for.
However, it must be said that the offense at Oklahoma greatly benefited by back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners in Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. Interestingly enough, landing in Baltimore means that Brown will be playing with his third different Heisman Trophy winner in three seasons, Lamar Jackson. It remains to be seen if Jackson and the Ravens offense can find consistency through the air. There is little doubt that Brown will be relied on to make it possible. It all comes down to how effective Jackson can be at throwing the football. On talent alone, Maquise Brown has the talent to make an immediate impact. However, there are too many factors outside of his control which directly impact his production.
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Brown and Williams are not lacking for talent. If not for the tremendous depth at defensive line, Williams would have likely been selected at the end of the first round. Brown has been compared to Desean Jackson, a real game breaker during his prime seasons in Philadelphia. Both rookies are likely starters for two teams fighting for a playoff spot. Baltimore is coming off a division title, but also have the sour taste of a first round exit to the Chargers. The Browns are a dark-horse favorite for the Super Bowl. The seasons begins in just over a month. It can’t get here quick enough.