AFC North Draft Grades
It should be noted that I gave four teams in the NFL an A, 12 a B, 12 a C and 8 a D. The first round selection does carry a lot weight in the team's grade but winners and losers are determined through the following rounds. The AFC North had the Ravens hoping to not only maintain their grip on the division but also try to win the Super Bowl. The rest of the division is playing catchup and with a good draft class, could possibly overtake the Ravens as the best team in the AFC North.
Baltimore Ravens: A
The Ravens. like many good teams have the luxury of not being obligated to fill positional needs. The Ravens already have a roster built to win a super bowl and the Ravens would be able to draft the best players on the board regardless of position.
The Ravens displayed this luxury by landing the fast middle linebacker from LSU in Patrick Queen. Queen happened to be on the board when the Ravens were drafting at 28 and the Ravens pounced on the opportunity. JK Dobbins was a similar story, the Ravens don't need a running back with Mark Ingram still playing at a high level and Gus Edwards still being a viable backup. Dobbins like Patrick Queen, wasn't expected to be available at pick 58, resulting in the Ravens capitalizing once again. The Ravens defensive line already is looking better than last season with the acquisitions of Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe so drafting defensive tackle Justin Madubuike in the third round wasn't a need but a luxury for the Ravens. With three more first round picks they were able to land wide receiver Devin DuVernay and Malik Harrison who both can make instant impacts for an already stacked team and then went to the offensive line which may be one of the few needs with Marshall Yanda retiring. With the Ravens having more than enough picks and an already strong draft class, they landed Geno Stone in the final round, a safety that can possibly be the steal of the draft.
This draft was a golden opportunity for the Ravens and they took advantage. Landing numerous players that fell to them, the Ravens are able to continue the recent run of strong drafts. The Ravens were already super bowl contenders before this draft and now might be the favorites to win this upcoming season.
Pittsburgh Steelers: D
The Steelers lost their first round pick with the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade, putting more pressure on Pittsburgh to win days two and three of draft night. Unfortunately, the Steelers took a bad draft position and made things worse when they used their second round pick on wide receiver Chase Claypool from Notre Dame. I see Claypool as a number two receiver in his career and I can understand the Steelers wanting him if they think he'll become a star but with bigger needs, this might be a wasted pick.
The Steelers then drafted an edge rusher in the third round in Alex Highsmith from Charlotte. With defensive player of the year candidate TJ Watt and recently resigned Bud Dupree, you could argue that edge rusher was the least of the Steelers needs yet they still felt they needed to add depth to the position. After reaching on a running back, the Steelers finally went to a need, drafting guard Kevin Dotson.
The Steelers were off to a bad start from early on and made the situation worse when they used their early picks on positions they didn't really need. The Steelers have to hope that this draft doesn't make them the worst team in the division for the upcoming season.
Cleveland Browns: B
The Browns had two glaring needs entering last off-season, the O-Line and secondary. After another disappointing season, The Browns addressed both those needs with their first two picks in this draft.
The Browns started off the new regime taking Jedrick Wills with the tenth pick in the draft. Wills may not have been the best offensive lineman on the board according to many but is still expected to have a great NFL career and helps with bolster what should be a rapidly improved O-line next year (the Browns also acquired Jack Conklin in free agency). The Browns had incredible fortune landing safety Grant Delpit in the second round, Delpit was the Jim Thorpe award winner this past season (best defensive back in college football) and was considered a top ten talent throughout the season. The Browns helped fix the secondary while landing one of the best players on the board. After using back-to-back picks on defense the Browns made the most questionable pick in their draft when they selected tight end Harrison Bryant from Florida Atlantic. The Browns already signed Austin Hooper in free agency and with David Njoku still under contract, it didn't seem like a need that the Browns had to address. After giving David Njoku the fifth-year option shortly after the draft, we only question the choice more, it would be understandable if the Browns planned on running two tight ends formations throughout the season but that doesn't seem likely (it is possible but would involve leaving a slot receiver or Kareem Hunt on the bench). The Browns rounded off the draft with a potential sleeper from Michigan in Donavan Peoples Jones who can provide depth at the receiver position.
The Browns had a good but not great draft. They didn't overthink things, they didn't take many gambles and they knew what their priorities were before the draft. This class should make the Browns competitive next season but they still are a few steps behind the Ravens in the AFC North.
Cincinatti Bengals: B
Joe Burrow was the obvious pick for a team that is starting from scratch. The 2-14 Bengals weren't going to be able to fill every need in the upcoming draft but they would at least be able to start the return to relevancy.
Joe Burrow had one of the greatest seasons in college football history as he led the LSU Tigers to a National Championship, making him the consensus number one pick. The Bengals second round choice will help in the passing game but I thought the Bengals could have selected many other talented players with pick instead of wide receiver Tee Higgins. The Bengals had the worst rushing defense last season and a bottom ten scoring defense and the second round would've been a good place to start trying to fix that. The Bengals switched to the defensive side of the ball for their next three picks, including two linebackers before finishing off the draft with an interior lineman (helping another need of the Bengals) and another linebacker to help the Bengals avoid being the worst rush defense for the second year in a row.
Like the Browns, the Bengals did a good but not great job in the draft. Don't expect the Bengals to win the division now but this is a big step in the right direction. The Bengals made a few questionable picks but overall brought in a strong class that can reward them for years down the road.