Draft Grades: AFC North

Edited by Matt Hicks, Staff Writer, Grades also by Eric Adams

The AFC North has long been a three team battle; with the Steelers, Ravens, and Bengals continually challenging for the title. Now all three teams have declining veteran quarterbacks and big gaps holding them back from being serious Super Bowl contenders. Add in some big purchases, young defensive pieces, and some high draft picks from Cleveland and you have a lot on the line in this draft.

Baltimore Ravens:

Eric: B

LOVE the Lamar pick. Flacco has a year or two tops and then he will hand over the keys to the offense to Lamar Jackson, which is just the type of revolution the Ravens offense needs. Hurst and Andrews aren’t my favorite tight ends and Baltimore struggles to develop tight ends and I see that continuing here. Orlando Brown slid because of a bad combine but he can play and should be able to start right away for Baltimore and at the very least provide solid depth.

Matt: B-

I love the Lamar Jackson pick but Hayden Hurst in the first is a serious head scratcher. The two combined, however, demonstrate a desire to rebuild the Ravens offense to fit Jackson’s play style. I don’t like Andrews half as much as most but he does seem to compliment the more athletic and playmaking Hurst. Once they secured pieces for a future offense they did well to focus on defense later in the draft. Taking Lasley over both Cain and Equanimous St. Brown was a late round mistake. Still, overall, Ozzie had a solid last draft and I know the Ravens community will miss having him working the phones for them on draft day.

Cincinnati Bengals:

 Eric: B

I liked what the Bengals did in this draft. Billy Price should start right away and the O-Line with the addition of Price and Glenn will be much improved. Walton is going to be a viable replacement for Gio Bernard. Hubbard in the 3rd is tremendous value. Not a big fan of Jefferson but Cincy needs to replace Burfict sooner rather than later. I also like the chance taken on Logan Woodside late in the 7th.

Matt: B+

The Bengals desperately needed an interior lineman and Price can definitely help Mixon. Although Price went higher than the second round projection I had on him, the Bengals adjusted on the fly after Ragnow came off pick before them. They got great value in Sam Hubbard and Malik Jefferson in the 3rd round. Drafting Mark Walton shows great recognition that Mixon cannot support the running game by himself and they’ll have a quick playmaker to support him; providing great value in the mid-rounds. Auden Tate originally considered a top 10 wide receiver prospect but plummeted after a horrible combine performance. In the 7th round, the Bengals got good value on someone who could end up contributing to their offense with a significant lack of weapons; whether that’s at wideout or tight end is yet to be determined.

Cleveland Browns:

 Eric: B

Cleveland did well for me but one thing brought them down from an A to a B and that was draft Antonio Callaway. This has nothing to do with Callaway’s talent; it has everything to do with his off the field problems. Putting this guy with Josh Gordon is a huge head scratcher. Baker was the most beloved QB from NFL head coaches and GMs so if he doesn’t work out then the Cleveland coaching is to blame. Ward was a fine pick but Chubb would have made more of an immediate impact. I love Nick Chubb heading there. He’ll be the lead back as early as this season.

Matt: D

I dislike just about everything the Browns did in this draft. Starting with Baker Mayfield as the number one pick; he’s undersized, ran a simple offense that elevated his stats, and has legitimate character concerns. The Browns passed on the chance to get a quarterback with more long-term potential (Darnold) and one more polished currently (Rosen). Taking Chubb in the 2nd is an insult to both Chubb and Hyde’s ability; their play styles directly conflict and best-case scenario the Browns wasted $15 million. Taking Thomas over Hubbard in the 3rd is also questionable. Perhaps the most atrocious part of their draft was Calloway in the 4th. They took a guy off most draft boards, who got kicked out of Florida for conduct issues, hasn’t played in a year, and failed a drug test at the combine. They literally threw away that draft pick. They didn’t get an “F” because I appreciate the investment they put into their secondary with Denzel Ward at 4th overall.

Pittsburgh Steelers:

Eric: C

It hurts because Edmunds is secondary help that the Steelers sorely need but this guy had a 4th round grade and they took him in the first. That is not ok and they likely took a better safety in round 5 in Marcus Allen than in round 1. Rudolph might very well be the heir apparent to Big Ben so that’s a solid pick. James Washington will come in and compete for playing time with Bryant gone. I worry about the Bryant trade because now the tallest receiver in Pittsburgh is Juju at 6’2. Bryant provided headaches the entire season but he provided problems for New England in the game against the pats. That dynamic on their offense is now gone.

Matt: C

Terrel Edmunds in the first round is beyond questionable but Marcus Allen in the 5th is great value; almost balancing out the fact that these two very well could have both gone in the 3rd round. Although Rudolph is good value in the 3rd he’s not the most developed QB in the draft. He lacks arm strength, especially compared to Big Ben, and is less mobile than even an old version of him. He seems like less of a successor and more of an obstacle to Josh Dobbs’ rightful spot as second on the depth chart. Pairing Rudolph with James Washington was a smart move; but Washington is another small WR on a team that gave up their physically biggest target in Bryant. Overall, this draft leaves a lot to be desired.

 

About Matt Hicks

Matt’s writing at Top2 is focused on dynasty fantasy football. He loves blending his experience writing research in the field of education with fantasy football stats. Matt currently lives in Baltimore, MD and graduated from Eastern Connecticut State University and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. You can follow Matt on Twitter: @Top2Matt

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