Looking at the past few years, the AFC North has been lead by the Ravens and Steelers. The Bengals had some appearances but the top 2 teams were the aforementioned Steelers and Ravens. However, with the Browns and Bengals having good draft classes this division becomes much more competitive. Lamar Jackson won MVP and took the talented Ravens to the playoffs last year, the Steelers still went 8-8 with Mason Rudolph and with Big Ben hopefully returning the Steelers are once again playoff contenders, the Browns gutted and rejuvenated their coaching staff as well as draft incredible talents to help Baker and build their defense, and lastly, the Bengals return with a high octane offense and decent defense to challenge for the division.
- The Baltimore Ravens return with a very talented team. They did lose in the divisional round to the Chargers, however, they have the offensive and defensive ability to make a deep playoff run. They have improved on the defensive side of the ball in the draft and in the offseason. Lamar has JK Dobbins and Devin Duvernay as additional weapons to utilize. Dobbins has the skills and power to be a two-down back while also possessing the elusiveness and hands to stay on the field for 3rd downs. On the defensive side of the ball, the Ravens added Justin Madubuike, Patrick Queen, and Malik Harrison. Madubuike is a solid rotational defensive tackle that has the athletic and technical tools to get to the backfield. However, he needs to build lower body strength and learn from starters ahead of him to stick around in the league. Queen is a slightly undersized mike linebacker with the awareness and physicality that could make him a successful backer. He needs to fill out a bit to help him shed blocks and stop ball carriers as they go through gaps. Harrison has the ideal size for a linebacker. He has good downhill skills
- The Browns have rebuilt and now have a young group of very talented players. They have a very solid o-line to protect Baker with the addition of Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills. They have talented weapons around him to make him successful with Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, and Nick Chubb. With the addition of Harrison Bryant in the 4th round, the Browns now have one of the most talented tight end groups to protect Baker when he runs bootlegs. On the defensive side of the ball, the Browns have a talented defensive line group in Myles Garret, Olivier Vernon, Sheldon Richardson, and Larry Ogunjobi. Not the greatest linebacking corp but they have solid players in Sione Takitaki and Mack Wilson. With the addition of Grant Delpit, the Browns have a group very talented defensive backs in Denzel Ward, Greedy Williams, Delpit, and Karl Joseph. With this draft, the Browns have a very solid corp of players.
- With the departure of Andy Dalton and the Bengals not having a competent backup quarterback to start, the Bengals took the best quarterback in this class in Joe Burrow. Burrow is a very accurate and calculated killer of defenses. He is at his best outside of the pocket and creates plays out of virtually nothing. In the 2nd round, the Bengals picked up Tee Higgins, a big-bodied receiver from Clemson. Higgins specializes in what Burrow is great at. Exploiting corners whose backs are turned to him downfield. In rounds 3,4,5, and 7 the Bengals went with defensive players. In the 3rd round, the Bengals selected Logan Wilson. In the 4th, Akeem Davis-Gaither. In the 5th, Khalid Kareem, and Markus Bailey in the 7th. Wilson and Bailey both have the size and instincts to play middle and strong-side linebacker. Both tackle well, but Wilson is faster and better at getting through blockers and trash to the ball carrier. Davis-Gaither is a linebacker safety combo who possesses incredible athleticism to pursue ball carriers and cover tight ends and backs. Khalid Kareem is a solid power rusher who sets a good edge and can shed to tackle ball carriers. However, he needs to work on his burst and finesse to be a more successful player in the future. Lastly, in the 6th round, the Bengals selected Hakeem Adeniji. He is a solid tackle with good length, mobility, and awareness. Needs to brush up on technique and will most likely move to guard to avoid these problems in the future.
- The Steelers traded away their 1st round pick for Minkah Fitzpatrick. Getting great value and becoming one of the top 4 safeties in the league. Chase Claypool in the 2nd round is a vertical threat with good length and size. With his crazy measurables, many teams did not know what to do with the tools that Claypool brings. But with the success rate of receivers in Pittsburgh, look for Claypool to be successful in that system. In the 3rd round, the Steelers selected Alex Highsmith. Highsmith has incredible speed, technique, and responsibility awareness. He does lack length and needs to improve his hands to keep his chest clean when going after the quarterback. Anthony Macfarland was selected in the 4th round out of Maryland as a running back. Speed, speed, and more speed. Macfarland has a lot of juice and that is about it. The Steelers also selected Kevin Dotson in the 4th round. He is a big strong interior offensive lineman. He needs to be clean up technique to not get exposed in the league though. In the 6th round, the Steelers selected Antoine Brooks Jr. He is a bulky box safety that plays well downhill and is a hitter. Due to his size, he is not a great coverage safety and lacks speed. Lastly, Carlos Davis was selected in the 7th round. Davis is a power rusher with strong hands and surprising gap penetration. He does lack some length and technique that he needs to clean up to get a few sacks in the pros.
In conclusion, the AFC North is a very competitive division with good draft classes all around. Look for fireworks being created by these teams on future Sundays.
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