AFC North 2020 NFL Draft Grades

AFC North
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The 2020 NFL draft has come and gone, and what a draft it was. The quarantine draft went smoothly with no real issues that we know of. In a loaded draft class, a lot of NFL teams got better. This was particularly true of the AFC North, a division coming off a down year. If the draft is any indication, it will be a much better division next year.

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2020 AFC North NFL Draft Grades

Baltimore Ravens: A

Players added: Patrick Queen, J.K. Dobbins, Justin Madubuike, Devin Duvernay, Malik Harrison, Tyre Phillips, Ben Bredeson, Broderick Washington, James Proche, Geno Stone

Entering the 2020 NFL draft, the Baltimore Ravens were already the best team in the AFC North. Following the draft, this is even more apparent. Baltimore started the draft with a home run. LSU linebacker Patrick Queen somehow fell to pick 28, and Baltimore did not hesitate to pick him up. He fills the biggest need on a defense that was already one of the best in the league last year.

J.K. Dobbins might not fill a huge need on the Ravens, but he just adds more explosiveness to their offense. He will join a committee of Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards, and will likely become the starter soon with Ingram getting older. Wide receivers Devin Duvernay and James Proche are great picks as well, adding to an already dangerous offense. Following the retirement of Marshal Yanda, the Ravens needed a guard. They got two in Tyre Phillips and Ben Bredeson. One will end up a starter and the other will be a rotational interior offensive lineman. One of the best offenses in the league got better in this draft.

Baltimore also greatly beefed up its already-stout defensive line in this draft. They already added Derek Wolfe and Calais Campbell in the off-season. Joining them will be third-round pick Justin Madubuike and fifth-rounder Broderick Washington. The former was one of the highest rate defensive tackles in the draft. Malik Harrison will be joining Queen in a new and improved linebacker group. Iowa safety Geno Stone was an absolute steal in the seventh round and will offer much-needed safety depth. The Ravens had the best draft in the AFC North, and arguably the best in the league.

Cincinnati Bengals: A-

Players added: Joe Burrow, Tee Higgins, Logan Wilson, Akeem Davis-Gaither, Khalid Kareem, Hakeem Adeniji, Markus Bailey

The Cincinnati Bengals quietly put together a very good draft. Joe Burrow was a layup pick to them number one overall. He will be their franchise quarterback for the next decade and more. Joining Burrow is Clemson wide receiver Tee Higgins, a tall and explosive wide receiver who will make a fierce duo with A.J. Green. They probably should have drafted a tackle earlier in the draft, but with only seven picks, they had bigger needs elsewhere. Despite that, Kansas tackle Hakeem Adeniji was a quality pickup in the sixth round.

Defensively, the Bengals needed to beef up their front seven and they did exactly that. Three of their four defensive picks were used on linebackers and for good reason. Cincinnati’s linebacker corps was poor last year and was the biggest reason for their major defensive struggles. That was a clear area of need and they knocked it out of the park. Logan Wilson had a case to be an early second-round pick, and the Bengals got him in the third. Akeem Davis-Gaither had no business falling out of the third round, but Cincinnati was sure to pick him up to open the fourth. Markus Bailey of Purdue has a lot of potential for a seventh-round pick, too. Joining them on the defensive side of the ball is their fifth-round pick, defensive end Khalid Kareem of Notre Dame.

Though they still have some work to do to get out of the basement of the AFC North, this draft was a good first step for the Bengals. They won’t be the laughingstock that they were last year moving forward.

Cleveland Browns: B+

Players added: Jedrick Wills, Grant Delpit, Jordan Elliott, Jacob Phillips, Harrison Bryant, Nick Harris, Donovan Peoples-Jones

After winning the 2019 off-season, the Cleveland Browns ended up flopping. They got off to a good start in the 2020 off-season, too, and they followed it up with a good draft. Tackle was by far the team’s biggest need. It was a bit of a surprise to see Jedrick Wills fall all the way to ten, but Baker Mayfield isn’t complaining. Tight end Harrison Bryant being drafted was a bit of a surprise and might mean David Njoku will be moved. Donovan Peoples-Jones will be a great addition to a wide receiver room featuring Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry.

Defensively, the Browns needed to improve at safety and linebacker. They filled one of those needs well. Safety Grant Delpit might have had a down season last year, but he has a ton of upside and a great value pick at 44. It was a bit surprising to see the team add a defensive lineman before linebacker. They took Jordan Elliott (who is a great player, just doesn’t fill a big need) and then added linebacker Jacob Phillips later in the third round. Phillips was probably their worst pick of an otherwise solid draft.

They probably won’t be competing for the AFC North crown, but the Browns might find themselves competing for a wildcard spot. If they can build some team chemistry (on their third head coach in as many years), the talent is there to make a push towards the playoffs.

Pittsburgh Steelers: B+

Players added: Chase Claypool, Alex Highsmith, Anthony McFarland, Kevin Dotson, Antoine Brooks Jr., Carlos Davis

The Pittsburgh Steelers had multiple needs and did a good job filling them with limited draft capital. Chase Claypool will likely be a favorite target of returning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Standing 6’4″ and running a 4.42 40, Claypool has a ton of potential that Roethlisberger should be able to tap into. Anthony McFarland was a bit of a surprise pick, but at the very least offers big-play potential to a running back group that lacks exactly that. It will be interesting to see how they work to get him touches. Guard Kevin Dotson was a phenomenal pickup in the fourth round. He is a bully and will fit right into Pittsburgh’s offensive scheme.

Defensively, Pittsburgh had four needs: edge rusher, linebacker, safety, and defensive lineman. They filled all four needs with three picks. Alex Highsmith out of Charlotte offers much-needed depth on the edge and has loads of potential as a pass rusher. Antoine Brooks Jr. is a versatile player who will likely play a linebacker/safety hybrid role. He’ll also be a great special teams contributor, something Pittsburgh really needed. Carlos Davis has a lot of athletic promise for a defensive tackle but isn’t the run-stuffing kind of nose tackle that the team could use.

Pittsburgh was great on defense last year and added much-needed depth on that side of the ball. Offensively, they will get better by default with Roethlisberger coming back. With a new weapon for him to throw to and a beast of an offensive lineman, the offense should take huge leaps forward this year. Pittsburgh might be sneaky competitors with the Ravens in the AFC North, depending on Roethlisberger’s health.

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