It’s been a little bit since I last posted; I’ve been caught up watching the Survivor finale, catching up on schoolwork, and checking to see when sports are coming back. But today, I’ll be continuing my draft grade series with the AFC North. I’m hoping to ramp up posting this week with the continuation of this series, but until online school is over, I can’t guarantee anything. For now, I’ll be taking a look at this division, which includes some of the best draft classes in the league.
NFL Draft Report Cards 2020
Cincinnati Bengals: A-
Most teams traded draft picks at some point. But the Bengals were content with the 1st pick of each round, and I think it made for a pretty good draft class. Joe Burrow was absolutely the right choice #1 overall. I also liked some of their late round picks, as they got good value on offensive lineman Hakeem Adeniji and linebacker Markus Bailey. If the Bengals were good last year, they wouldn’t have this much draft capital. But headed in to this year, I think they’re a better team. This off-season, they addressed majority of their burning positional needs. They found their new franchise QB and stocking up on linebackers in this draft. In addition, they signed some quality defensive players in free agency like DT D.J. Reader and S Vonn Bell.
Cleveland Browns: A-
After they got steals in CB Greedy Williams (Round 2) and LB Mack Wilson (Round 5) last year, I gave the Browns the league’s highest draft grade. This year, they had another solid draft and end up with one of the best grades in the league all over again. They started the draft off by getting some protection for QB Baker Mayfield in Jedrick Wills Jr. Wills, along with free agent signing Jack Conklin and new IOL Nick Harris, should make for a big improvement in the Browns o-line. The Browns also got a couple more steals in S Grant Delpit (Round 2) and WR Donovan Peoples-Jones (Round 6). Like the Bengals, they filled majority of their positional needs in this draft, and that should help the team take a significant step forward this year. I can justify almost all of Cleveland’s draft picks; the only selection I don’t understand is the choice of TE Harrison Bryant, since the Browns already have a TE duo in Austin Hooper (free agent signing) and David Njoku.
Baltimore Ravens: B+
The Ravens didn’t have that many draft needs after a huge 2019 season, but they filled the ones they had. Patrick Queen, Justin Madubuike, and Malik Harrison will be great additions to an improving Ravens front seven that already added veteran d-linemen Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe this March. They also gave QB Lamar Jackson some more WR depth behind Marquise Brown in Devin Duvernay and James Proche. Ben Bredeson will help fill the gap Marshal Yanda left behind. I didn’t understand the choice of RB J.K. Dobbins, as the Ravens don’t necessarily need him. But Dobbins was great value and has the potential to replace Mark Ingram as Baltimore’s RB1. Overall, this draft class was great, but it’s tough to beat out the excellent draft classes Cincinnati and Cleveland put together. I could see the AFC North becoming one of the league’s stronger divisions in 2020. The Ravens are the divisional favorites, but they’ll have competition.
Pittsburgh Steelers: C
This is the one AFC North draft class that I’m not a huge fan of. The Steelers struggled to fill their needs and reached on multiple occasions. The Steelers did address the offensive line, but Kevin Dotson was far from the best option to do so. They also could’ve done more to help the secondary, even though they did draft Antoine Brooks Jr. Their Day 2 picks were both reaches in my opinion. WR Chase Claypool received too much hype after the combine, and Alex Highsmith may struggle after weaker competition in college. Plus, Highsmith is far from a perfect fit in Pittsburgh. I don’t mind the selections of Brooks and RB Anthony McFarland, who could help fill in if RB James Conner gets hurt and once Conner leaves in free agency. But Pittsburgh missed on several needs and that could take a toll on their 2020 performance. Even with QB Ben Roethlisberger returning and the playoff field expanded, I can’t see Pittsburgh making the playoffs, and things will only go downhill from here with several players on expiring contracts.
That’s all for this portion of my draft grades. I’ll be reviewing the AFC South next, so stay tuned for that post soon.