AFC North Draft Grades

Continuing on with the draft grades by division here at Neptune Scouting, we have what looks to be one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL next season: the AFC North. The Bengals are coming off of a Super Bowl appearance, the Browns have added Deshaun Watson, suspension pending, while upsetting but not moving Baker Mayfield, the Steelers lost Ben Roethlisberger to retirement, and the Ravens haven’t extended Lamar Jackson as of this writing. This division has a lot of crazy storylines and a lot of talent. Each team was able to take a different approach to make their roster better and give them a chance to compete for a playoff spot in 2022. 

For those who haven’t read any of my draft grades articles in past years, here is how I personally hand out grades for draft classes. I assess each pick individually based on the value of the pick and who else was on the board at the time of the selection. Then I will take the class as a whole and grade the class based on teem needs addressed, scheme fit, and overall value found in the draft. I also take into account asset movement and allocation. This basically means that for trades that were made, I assess whether the team that made the trade got the most value out of what they were giving away and if they maximized the player and value at each of the selections that were traded for.

Baltimore Ravens

1.14: Kyle Hamilton/S/Notre Dame

1.25: Tyler Linderbaum/IOL/Iowa

2.45: David Ojabo/EDGE/Michigan

3.76: Travis Jones/IDL/Connecticut

4.110: Daniel Faalele/OT/Minnesota

4.119: Jalyn Armour-Davis/CB/Alabama

4.128: Charlie Kolar/TE/Iowa State

4.130: Jordan Stout/P/Penn State

4.139: Isaiah Likely/TE/Coastal Carolina

4.141: Damarion Williams/CB/Houston

6.196: Tyler Badie/RB/Missouri

The Ravens proved yet again why they are one of the best front offices in the NFL. Under Ozzie Newsome, they were always a team that let the draft fall to them, sticking to their board to land high quality players. With Eric DeCosta at the helm they have done that yet again in the 2022 NFL Draft. 

First off all, Baltimore got a first round pick for Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, which in itself was great asset evaluation by the Ravens front office, especially considering AJ Brown also went for the same price to Philadelphia just a few minutes later. Baltimore was able to use that second first round pick on an immediate day one starter. 

Starting out in round one with two of my top 15 players in the draft, including my number one overall player in Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton, Baltimore started the draft hot and continued to stockpile good football players throughout all three days. Adding Hamilton and Iowa offensive lineman Tyler Linderbaum in round one were already top tier gets. To follow it up with David Ojabo and Travis Jones, two players inside my top 50 that were sliding down boards, rounded out one of the best day two hauls in the entire league. Ojabo will get a chance to sit for as long as he needs to rehab his Achilles injury, but when he comes back healthy and pairs with Odafe Oweh, the Ravens will have a great young pass rushing duo. 

Day three is where teams fill out their roster, adding depth and pieces that can help round out the team. The Ravens, with six fourth round picks, were able to attack the board early and get the guys they coveted. Daniel Faalele is a starting right tackle in the NFL and fits the exact body and strength type Baltimore likes to have in their offensive lineman. Adding Jalyn Armour-Davis and Damarion Williams in the secondary will add depth immediately, and both could potentially see starter time down the line. Kolar and Likely are two tight ends that can line up in different spots and give the Ravens the option to run 13 personnel anytime they choose. Tyler Badie was one of my favorite running backs in the class so adding him in round six is also great value. If there was one gripe with this draft class, it was failing to address the wide receiver position. Even if the Ravens don’t maximize WRs fully in their offensive scheme, outside of Rashod Bateman that room is very bare and an outside threat opposite of him would have been a nice addition. 

Best Pick: David Ojabo/EDGE/Michigan

Head Scratcher: N/A

Overall Grade: A

Cincinnati Bengals

1.31: Daxton Hill/S/Michigan

2.60: Cam-Taylor Britt/CB/Nebraska

3.95: Zachary Carter/IDL/Florida

4.136: Cordell Volson/OL/North Dakota State

5.166: Tycen Anderson/S/Toledo

7.252: Jeffrey Gunter/EDGE/Coastal Carolina

I continue to struggle with the Cincinnati Bengals and their drafting tendencies. The direction seemed scattered and unfocused this time around and I did not feel that they fully maximized the value of their picks. The Bengals drafted solid players throughout the entire class; there isn’t a bad player that can’t contribute for the Bengals in this draft class for Cincinnati. I like the players taken, but the Bengals struggled in my eyes to find a ton of value in the way they attacked the board. 

Let’s get this out of the way: Daxton Hill is a home run selection. He’s a versatile secondary play maker that can play single high or line up in the nickel. He is rangy, physical, and has great instincts. He is going to be the backbone of this secondary for a long time, and the Bengals secondary needed help. Cam Taylor-Britt is another solid player that I just felt was taken a round too early. I liked some of the other corners on the board at the time, and although corner is a massive need for Cincinnati I don’t think they were able to fully address that need with Taylor-Britt being the only true corner taken in this draft class. 

Zachary Carter and Cordell Volson are two other players that although I like, think were overvalued and taken too early. There were several players at both positions that I thought were better prospects and better values in the third and fourth round that would’ve benefited Cincinnati a little more. I love the Tycen Anderson pick in round five. I think he was somebody that was underrated throughout the draft process and has a chance to make an immediate impact on this team. 

Overall the Bengals knew they had needs to address in the secondary and they did so heavily. Dax Hill is a baller and will be an immediate high level starter for this team. I just don’t love what Cincinnati did the rest of the draft. Not many high impact guys for me immediately and the value was not attacked the best by this front office. This draft is not a bad draft by any means, it just doesn’t have as many high impact players as I think Cincinnati needed to bring in, especially with the limited capital that the Bengals had to work with. 

Best Pick: Daxton Hill/S/Michigan

Head Scratcher: Zachary Carter/IDL/Florida

Overall Grade: C-

Cleveland Browns 

3.68: Martin Emerson/CB/Mississippi State

3.78: Alex Wright/EDGE/UAB

3.99: David Bell/WR/Purdue

4.108: Perrion Winfrey/IDL/Oklahoma

4.124: Cade York/K/LSU

5.135: Jerome Ford/RB/Cincinnati

6.202: Mike Woods/WR/Oklahoma

7.223: Isaiah Thomas/EDGE/Oklahoma

7.246: Dawson Deaton/IOL/Texas Tech

The Browns did not have a lot of capital coming into the draft with no first round pick due to the acquisition of Deshaun Watson. Because of another trade with Houston ,the Browns relinquished their second round pick to acquire some third and fourth round selections. With no first or second round selections in this draft, Cleveland had to make the most out of rounds 3-7 to come home with a good draft, and they did just that. 

The Browns had three third round picks and were able to land three very good football players. Martin Emerson becomes a high quality CB4 for the Browns with Denzel Ward, Greg Newsome, and Greedy Williams ahead of him on the depth chart, and I see both Alex Wright and David Bell taking over starting roles by mid-season. However, Cleveland’s best selection, and one of the best selections in the entire NFL Draft, was Perrion Winfrey, a dominant interior defensive lineman that was the Senior Bowl MVP. I fully expect him to be a starter on the interior this season as well for Cleveland. 

Cade York is the new kicker of the future for this team and getting the best kicker in the draft is never a bad thing so Cleveland did a good job there. The Jerome Ford pick doesn’t make a ton of sense to me. He is a great running back and does a lot of things well, but with Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, D’Ernest Johnson, and Demetric Felton on the roster it seems like more depth clogging at the RB spot. 

Overall I think Cleveland did a good job at acquiring good football players on all three days of the draft. They maximized value without having a first or second round pick and were able to bring in some players that have starter potential. 

Best Pick: Perrion Winfrey/IDL/Oklahoma

Head Scratcher: Jerome Ford/RB/Cincinnati

Overall Grade: B

Pittsburgh Steelers

1.20: Kenny Pickett/QB/Pittsburgh

2.52: George Pickens/WR/Georgia

3.84: DeMarvin Leal/IDL/Texas A&M

4.138: Calvin Austin III/WR/Memphis

6.208: Connor Heyward/FB/Michigan State

7.225: Mark Robinson/LB/Ole Miss

7.241: Chris Oladokun/QB/South Dakota State

Pittsburgh came into this draft linked with several quarterbacks for their first round pick and ended up having the choice between all of them, as none went off the board until the Steelers pick at number 20. Pittsburgh opted to go with Kenny Pickett as their potential next long term starting QB, a selection that I don’t hate but don’t love either. 

Pickett was touted by many as the most “NFL ready” quarterback in this draft class if you needed someone to start away and win you games, which may be true, but Pittsburgh doesn’t need that. They signed Mitchell Trubisky to be a bridge quarterback this off-season to allow a QB (like Malik Willis) to sit a year and learn and develop. 

Now I am not going to dive into the QB discourse from this past NFL Draft season. I was not a fan of any of these QBs going in round one so no matter who the quarterback selection was it was going to be a reach in my eyes, but to me Malik Willis made the most sense for the situation in Pittsburgh, and he possesses a higher ceiling than Pickett. 

After the QB selection the Steelers did a nice job finding talent. George Pickens was a consensus first rounder just a season ago before suffering an injury that ultimately hurt his stock over the last season. If he can stay healthy, he has the ceiling to be the Steelers WR1 moving forward. He is that good. DeMarvin Leal is a name that I was shocked was still available in round three. He will be a key rotational piece in his rookie season before likely taking over a starting role in the coming years. 

Calvin Austin III was one of my favorite WR prospects in this entire class. His speed, route running ability, and sudden quickness when changing direction is special, and if any team can develop a WR it is Pittsburgh. Overall Pittsburgh had a well rounded draft and got high impact players early all across the draft. Even if Pickett wasn’t my choice at QB, the Steelers did a good job surrounding him with some help in this draft. 

Best Pick: Calvin Austin III/WR/Memphis

Head Scratcher: N/A

Overall Grade: B

Division Draft Rankings

  1. Baltimore Ravens (A)
  2. Cleveland Browns (B)
  3. Pittsburgh Steelers (B)
  4. Cincinnati Bengals (C-)

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