NFL Draft

2023 NFL Draft Roundup: AFC North Day Two Recap

Things are really heating up in the AFC North following the conclusion of Day 2 of the 2023 NFL Draft in Kansas City.

As the Pittsburgh Steelers had quite an impressive haul on Day 2, landing Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr., Wisconsin defensive tackle Keeanu Benton, and Georgia tight end Darnell Washington, the three other teams in the AFC North made some intriguing additions as well, strengthening the division top to bottom.

After adding wide receiver Zay Flowers on Thursday night in the first round, the Baltimore Ravens continued a strong draft Friday. Without a second-round pick due to the Roquan Smith trade last season, the Ravens had to wait until the third round Friday night.

There, Baltimore sat tight at No. 86 overall and landed Clemson linebacker Trenton Simpson, adding an athletic, sideline-to-sideline defender to an already stacked linebacker room with Smith and Patrick Queen.

For his college career, Simpson recorded 162 tackles (23 for a loss) with 13 sacks and three forced fumbles, though he never intercepted a pass. Simpson had a terrific Combine and Pro Day showing but fell due to questions about his overall fit at the next level and whether he is an off-ball linebacker or a potential safety.

Outside of Baltimore’s Day 2 selection, the Cleveland Browns made their first selections of the draft after sitting out the first round due to last year’s trade for Deshaun Watson with the Houston Texans, and the second round due to the trade for wide receiver Elijah Moore.

At No. 74 overall in the third round, the Browns landed Tennessee wide receiver Cedric Tillman, and 24 picks later Baylor nose tackle Siaki Ika to close out a strong Day 2 for Cleveland.

Tillman finished with 37 receptions for 417 yards and three touchdowns last season, recording 109 receptions for 1,622 yards and 17 touchdowns in his career.

Tillman is the son of former NFL player Cedric Tillman, who spent time with Jacksonville and Denver.

Cleveland did a great job landing Tillman in the third round, completing their rebuild at the receiver position. Currently, Cleveland has Amari Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Moore and Tillman on the depth chart, which is quite a strong top four for Watson to work with.

Ika is a great add for Cleveland’s defense in the middle of the defensive line. In his Baylor career, Ika recorded 70 tackles (10.5 for a loss) with 4.5 sacks and three pass deflections. A LSU transfer, he posted 24 tackles (two for a loss) last season.

In our scouting report, Jonathan Heitritter concluded the following about Ika:

“His massive size and frame make him a chore to move off his spot for most double teams and nearly impossible to displace for any singular OL tasked with the job. He can sit in gaps, or he can penetrate himself, having several moves like the swim, long arm, and club/rip to get off blocks and cause disruption in the backfield. While a good athlete relative to his size, Ika could stand to drop 10-15lb to become more agile in the open field and as a run-and-chase defender which would also aid in his conditioning to stay on the field more than just the first two downs.”

The Cincinnati Bengals quietly had a great Day 2, adding Michigan cornerback DJ Turner at No. 60 overall in the second round, and then landing Alabama safety Jordan Battle at No. 95 overall following a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs. That continued an overhaul in the secondary after the Bengals lost safeties Jesse Bates and Vonn Bell in free agency this offseason.

Turner lacks great size at just 5112, 178 pounds with 30 3/4-inch arms but blazed a 4.26 4o at the Combine, the fastest time by anyone in attendance. He also jumped 38.5 inches in the vertical and a 10’11” broad jump, both excellent figures. Over his last two years at Michigan, Turner recorded 69 tackles (two for a loss), with three interceptions and 17 pass breakups.

In our pre-draft scouting report, our Tom Mead noted Turner’s fluidity and ability to read and drive in zone but panic on vertical throws and lack of physicality against bigger wide receivers. Mead concluded this about Turner:

“His size and physicality may give him issues in the NFL, but he is a competitor and can get his hands on the ball especially in the short area. I think he would fit best in a Zone heavy scheme if a team wants him to play outside. But I think his best fit initially is in the slot to stick with the quicker receivers. With added play strength he could move outside in a year or two.”

Overall, the Ravens, Browns and Bengals have done well in the draft, and look to close out Day 3 on Saturday in strong fashion.

The Ravens hold pick No. 124 overall (fourth round), No. 157 overall (fifth round) and No. 199 overall (sixth round) on Saturday. Baltimore is without its seventh-round pick due to a trade in the NFL Draft last year with the New York Giants, which involved guard Ben Bredeson.

Cleveland holds picks No. 111 overall (fourth round), No. 126 overall (fourth round), No. 140 overall (fifth round), No. 142 overall (fifth round), No. 190 overall (sixth round) and No. 229 overall (seventh round) Saturday. The 126th overall pick was acquired in a trade during last year’s draft from the Minnesota Vikings, and the fifth rounder at No. 140 overall was acquired from the Los Angeles Rams in a trade for defensive back Troy Hill.

Cincinnati holds five picks on Day 3. The Bengals are on the clock one pick ahead of the Steelers at No. 131 overall (fourth round), and then hold pick No. 163 (fifth round), No. 206 (sixth round), No. 217 (sixth round) and No. 246 (seventh round) on Saturday. The second sixth-round pick at No. 217 is a compensatory pick previously held by the Chiefs.

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