2022 NFL Draft Grades: AFC North

AFC North Draft Grades
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The 2022 NFL Draft is officially over, and over 250 prospects now have new teams. The AFC North is full of talented players, and now they have even more thanks to the draft. All four teams will continue to compete for the AFC North title, and their rosters have only gotten better from the draft. These are the 2022 draft grades for the AFC North.

2022 NFL Draft Grades for the AFC North

The AFC North was one of the most competitive divisions in football last year. It was the only division in the NFL where all four teams had eight wins or more. With this new draft class, the AFC North only gets more competitive. The team in last place in 2021, the Baltimore Ravens, arguably had one of the best drafts in 2022. The playoff-making Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers had decent-to-good drafts, and should only improve from where they are. Finally, the team in third place last season, the Cleveland Browns, had an average draft but now have star quarterback Deshaun Watson. Here are the 2022 draft grades and overviews for the four AFC North teams:

Baltimore Ravens- A (9.6/10)

Players Drafted: Safety Kyle Hamilton, Center Tyler Linderbaum, EDGE David Ojabo, Defensive Tackle Travis Jones, Offensive Tackle Daniel Faalele, Cornerback Jalyn Armour- Davis, Tight End Charlie Kolar, Punter Jordan Stout, Tight End Isaiah Likely, Cornerback Damarion Williams, and Running Back Tyler Badie

The Baltimore Ravens had a phenomenal draft in 2022. They capitalized on plenty of other teams’ mistakes and had plenty of great steals of players who should have been chosen earlier. In the first round, they were able to grab star safety Kyle Hamilton out of Notre Dame and the number one center Tyler Linderbaum, out of Iowa. Hamilton will instantly change the landscape of the Ravens secondary and will become a key piece in Baltimore’s smothering passing attack. Selecting Linderbaum and offensive tackle Daniel Faalele makes the Ravens already-good offensive line even better. Both are big, powerful players who will boost the Ravens run-dependent offense.

The Ravens also drafted two very solid defensive line prospects in the early rounds. They drafted edge rusher David Ojabo (Michigan) and defensive tackle Travis Jones (Connecticut) in the second and third rounds, respectively. Both of these guys are fantastic and will complement strong pass-rusher Calais Campbell. Ojabo’s quick speed and fantastic block-shedding should help the Ravens, as long as he is the same after his Achilles injury.

In the later rounds, the Ravens grabbed a few solid options at tight end in Charlie Kolar and Isaiah Likely. Both players will have to sit behind star Mark Andrews, but they could be useful in certain passing packages. They were also able to boost their already-solid secondary when they drafted Jalyn Armour-Davis out of Alabama and Damarion Williams out of Houston. The Ravens already had one of the best defenses in the NFL; now, they make their case once again following a very good draft. The Ravens are very deserving of their “A” rating for this draft and had a nearly perfect draft considering the circumstances of the NFL’s complex draft process.

Cincinnati Bengals- B- (8.1/10)

Players Drafted: Safety Daxton Hill, Cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt, Defensive Lineman Zachary Carter, Offensive Tackle Cordell Volson, Safety Tycen Anderson, and EDGE Jeffrey Gunter

The Bengals had a pretty decent draft, but the big story was their big additions to their secondary. Adding two speedy and versatile safeties (Daxton Hill and Tycen Anderson) and cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt will immediately help a porous Bengals secondary. Hill, the 31st pick, is a steal for Cincinnati, as he was projected to be a top-20 pick in this year’s draft. He can play safety and cornerback, including multiple different schemes like nickel and dime. Hill had 69 tackles, 4.5 of which were for a loss. He also broke up eight passes and had two picks during his junior season at Michigan. He will be a great complement to Jessie Bates in the defensive backfield.

Taylor-Britt and Anderson were also valuable pickups for the Bengals. Both have experience playing well at both safety and cornerback. The Bengals have three very good rookie options in their secondary now. They also drafted two strong defensive linemen in Zach Carter and Jeffrey Gunter. Both guys are solid rushers up front and will work well with Trey Hendrickson. Carter had eight sacks and 11 tackles for loss in his senior season, while Gunter had 5.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss in 2021.

One of the biggest problems that the Bengals had was their offensive line. Joe Burrow was running for his life during the playoffs, and Cincinnati only partially addressed this dire need in free agency. Luckily, the team selected tackle Cordell Volson out of North Dakota State. Volson is a big, strong run-blocker who will help Joe Mixon and Joe Burrow out of the backfield. 

Cleveland Browns- C+ (7.7/10)

Players Drafted: Cornerback Martin Emerson, EDGE Alex Wright, Receiver David Bell, Defensive Tackle Perrion Winfrey, Kicker Cade York, Running Back Jerome Ford,  Receiver Michael Woods II, EDGE Isaiah Thomas, and Center Dawson Deaton

The Browns had the weakest draft out of all of the AFC North teams. However, they didn’t even have that bad of a 2022 draft. Their headline offseason move was trading away a large haul of draft picks for star quarterback Deshaun Watson. The move helps reboot the Browns hopes of making the playoffs again. The move alone helps boost the Browns draft grade.

With their limited options, the team snagged two solid skill players in receiver David Bell and running back Jerome Ford. Bell, the Purdue product, put up nearly 100 catches and 1300 yards last season for the Boilermakers. Ford rushed for over 1300 yards and had 20 total touchdowns for Cincinnati last season. Both of these guys are playmakers, and they will find ways to make plays on the Browns offense.

Two other big decisions were the team’s drafting of kicker Cade York and defensive tackle Perrion Winfrey. York was arguably the best kicker in all of college football last year, and now he’s expected to become the starting kicker for Cleveland. The team cut the other two kickers on their roster, including last year’s starter Chase McLaughlin, so it is clearly York’s time to shine. Winfrey is a powerful force up front who was an absolute steal for the Browns in the fourth round. The team selected three players from Oklahoma (Winfrey, Woods, Thomas), so they already have some decent Sooner chemistry on their young team.

Pittsburgh Steelers- B (8.6/10)

Players Drafted: Quarterback Kenny Pickett, Receiver George Pickens, Defensive Tackle DeMarvin Leal, Receiver Calvin Austin III, Fullback Connor Heyward, Linebacker Mark Robinson, and Quarterback Chris Oladokun

The Pittsburgh Steelers end the AFC North draft grades series with a solid “B” rating. They have recently drafted very well and always seem to take the best player available. This year, however, the Steelers went out and grabbed two quarterbacks. They selected Kenny Pickett out of Pittsburgh with their first-round pick, and then they selected Chris Oladokun out of South Dakota State in the seventh round. Pickett is likely to come in and compete for the starting role right away. He has a solid arm and decent mobility for a rookie and can work well in the Steelers balanced offense. 

One of the biggest surprises for this draft was that the Steelers did not draft any offensive linemen. The team had one of the worst offensive lines last year, but they did not select any rookie prospects. However, they did address the battle in the trenches on the other side of the ball. The team drafted DeMarvin Leal, a tackle out of Texas A&M, who is a fantastic option on the line. Leal was an absolute steal in the third round, as he was listed as a round two pick on many mock drafts and previews.

With the departure of JuJu Smith-Schuster and the potential departures of Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool in the coming seasons, the Steelers needed to strengthen their weaker wide receiver room. They were able to take George Pickens, a vertical threat from Georgia, and Calvin Austin, a speed demon from Memphis. Both of these guys could be key playmakers on the Steelers offense in a few years. These two guys will instantly come in and compete for a spot as the starting wide receiver two or three.

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