It’s been one month since the 2022 NFL draft took place, and now that the dust has settled, it is time for fans of all 32 teams to speculate what their teams will look like with these fresh faces in the lineup, and wonder how their rookies will compare to the rest of the league’s. We’ve taken the liberty of looking into just how every team’s draft class looks to fit into their new homes’, and comparing draft classes by division, and today we’ll be looking at the AFC North.
The Cincinnati Bengals surprised some fans, playing in the Super Bowl, but it was clear that there were holes in that roster, QB Joe Burrow & WR Ja’Marr Chase covered a lot of those holes, but the biggest issue was their offensive line that just couldn’t hold up against the pass rush in LA of Aaron Donald & company. But they attacked that hole in free agency which really gave them a leg up in the draft, with no major hole other than maybe CB2 with Eli Apple filling that position. The Bengals were patient and let the board fall to them in the first round, taking DB Daxton Hill out of Michigan with the 31st overall selection. Daxton Hill offers a lot of versatility to play FS if they can’t get a deal worked out with Jessie Bates, and he can play down in the slot as well. A Tyrann Mathieu type of DB from a big-time program in Michigan. In the 2nd round the Bengals traded up 3 spots to grab Cam Taylor-Britt out of Nebraska. One thing is for sure the Bengals are going to have good tacklers in their secondary. Taylor-Britt is a 6’0 weighing in at 197 pounds. He ran a 4.38 40-yard dash so he has the speed to stay with WRs at the next level. Anyone who watched the AFC championship game between the Bengals & Chiefs saw Bengals DE Trey Hutchinson’s labored breathing on the sideline after chasing around Patrick Mahomes, so the Bengals got some depth in the 3rd round grabbing Zachary Carter out of Florida. They grabbed an offensive tackle out of North Dakota state in the fourth round in Cordell Volson who can play Tackle or Guard in the future, they rounded out the draft by grabbing a couple of special teams defenders Tycen Anderson a safety out of their backyard in Toledo & Jeffery Gunter a LB from Coastal Carolina. This is a very solid draft matched with their free agent moves, don’t be surprised if the Bengals show they are contenders for years to come after going toe-to-toe with the chiefs last year twice winning both of those games even beating the chiefs at arrowhead stadium for a trip to the super bowl.
In Ben Roethlisberger’s final season as the starting QB for the Pittsburgh steelers they were able to still finish with a winning record which is somewhat surprising if you saw Big Ben play last season, he was a shell of his former self & I think that speaks even higher of the coaching job Mike Tomlin continues to do in Pittsburgh. I thought if the Steelers were going to get their QB of the future they’d have to trade up to do so, however, this draft was unlike any other I can think of when it comes to the QB position. They stayed put & grabbed Kenny Pickett from Pitt who may have been the best QB playing home games at Heinz field last season. In the second round a big fast WR X fell to them in George Pickens from Georgia, questions about his maturity off the field & injuries on the field may have led to his slide, but the way Tomlin was able to handle AB & Juju in Pittsburgh I think this was the perfect situation for Pickens to go and grow with Pickett. In the 3rd round they grabbed a DT/DE DeMarvin Leal out of Texas A&M who has a ton of versatility on the defensive line & boasts a size & strength combination that makes him a steal here in the 3rd round. Their 4th round pick was Calvin Austin III out of Memphis, a small speedy WR who blew up the senior bowl & exploded onto draft boards accordingly. Keeping it in the family they grabbed Heyward the FB/TE out of Michigan State before grabbing a LB in the 7th round as well as another QB in Chris Oladokun out of South Dakota State. The only surprise to me in the steelers draft class is the lack of offensive lineman on the list. That OL really struggled to protect Ben last season, but they did get a young OG in James Daniels during free agency, but they also brought in Mitch Trubisky which kind of makes me question the drafting of 2 QBs. Overall, this is a solid draft, they got starters in the first 4 rounds & built for their future as well.
The Baltimore Ravens looked to build on their playoff caliber team last season, but they continued to be snake bitten by injuries throughout the season, playing some unknown players at RB as well as playing games without QB Lamar Jackson and losing some players in the secondary. They still finished 8-9 with high hopes of staying healthy & competing for the division this season. I must admit I absolutely love what the Ravens did in the draft. They saw Jordan Davis go off the board right before their pick, so they drafted Kyle Hamilton, the safety out of Notre Dame that was considered the best safety prospect in the draft by many people. They traded away an often-underwhelming WR in Marquise “Hollywood” Brown for a 1st round pick that Lamar wasn’t happy about, but they used that pick to draft Tyler Linderbaum the top Center in the draft to plug into the spot that Bradley Bozeman left open when he left for Carolina. In the 2nd round they drafted David Ojabo a young raw pass rusher out of Michigan that sadly tore his Achilles during his pro day, if not for the injury Ojabo would probably be a top 15 prospect so that’s a steal in the 2nd round. They grabbed Travis Jones the DT from UConn in the third round whom I was surprised was still available. They had 6 picks in the 4th round the first was Daniel Faalele a towering OT out of Minnesota Jalyn Armour-Davis a DB from Alabama (Baltimore loves those Bama guys) a pair of TEs Charlie Kolar from Iowa State & Isaiah Likely from coastal Carolina who I like a lot. Jordan Stout a punter out of Penn State & a DB from Houston Damarion Williams. They finished the draft in the 6th round grabbing RB Tyler Badie out of Mizzou who is a huge steal as he was one of the best RBs in the SEC last season. The biggest question in this draft is after trading away Hollywood Brown they didn’t feel the need to fill that hole with another draft pick, I also find it strange that they drafted 2 TEs when they have Mark Andrews fully entrenched as the starter & one of the best TEs in the game. I wonder if some of that will be tied to a huge future contract of Lamar Jackson & not being able to afford a re-sign of Andrews. But they got a lot of good depth pieces in this draft, some DBs after losing some to injuries & a RB with tons of upside & versatility.
The Cleveland Browns biggest offseason acquisition was Deshaun Watson the QB from Houston has shown that he is a top 10 QB in this league when on the field, but with 22 accusations of sexual assault & harassment looming it will be something to watch for the future in Cleveland. However, the Browns draft capital took a huge hit from that trade as well as their salary cap situation moving forward as they signed him to a five year 230 million dollar fully guaranteed contract. So, let’s dive in and see what the Browns did to surround Watson with talent to succeed in the future. Their first pick came in the 3rd round, they had 3 picks in the 3rd round the first of which being Martin Emerson the CB from Mississippi State. Emerson is a CB with size & tackling skills that excels in zone coverage & could be a guy to watch in the next year or 2, with the 2nd 3rd round pick they drafted Alex Wright a DE out of UAB standing at 6’7 he is a mountain of a man who could be a nice rotational piece with Myles Garrett & Jadeveon Clowney being locked in as starters on the depth chart. Who better to learn from? You can’t teach size, but he is a raw pass rusher who can grow into a big role opposite Garrett in the future. The last of their 3 3rds round picks was David Bell who didn’t blow anyone away with a pedestrian 40 time at the combine, but even in college he showed the ability to get open with his route running and body control coming out of Purdue. They had a pair of 4th round picks, the first being Perrion Winfrey the DT out of Oklahoma wowed people at the senior bowl consistently getting pressure in the middle of the DL. However, inconsistencies on his game tape made him fall to the 4th round, with good coaching he has a high ceiling especially with this draft position. With their other 4th round pick they grabbed kicker Cade York out of LSU. York was a very consistent kicker in college, but it will be something to watch in Cleveland as the weather turns to see how well he kicks in the cold coming from LSU & the SEC West respectively. In the 5th round they grabbed Jerome Ford the RB from Cincinnati who transferred in from Alabama after being buried in their depth chart. In the 6th round they grabbed Mike Woods, a WR out of Oklahoma who has good size at 6’1, but his 4.55 40 time may have dropped him down draft boards some. They rounded out their draft building the trenches with a DE Isaiah Thomas from Oklahoma & an OL Dawson Deaton from Texas Tech. I like what the Browns did overall with the draft capital they had available. Love the David Bell pick, but the Emerson pick is a bit of a head scratcher if you look at the Browns depth chart at the position, they have Denzel Ward whom they just resigned to a 5 year deal & Greg Newsome II who just finished his rookie season, I don’t hate the pick itself. But with your top pick you’d expect them to go somewhere where they don’t have starters written in sharpie on the depth chart already.
I like what all these teams did in the draft. They had different needs, but they were patient for the most part & let the board fall to them without panicking. The Steelers have a history of drafting well & that directly correlates with sustained success with that franchise. For the Bengals & Browns I think you must look at their off-seasons as a whole. Filling needs in free agency & with trades as well as what they did in the draft, but if I had to pick my favorite draft in this division, I must hand it to the Baltimore Ravens, they set themselves up for the future getting good depth pieces & some starters. Maybe some of that is because they had a ton of capital in the 4th round but setting up their roster to give Lamar a big extension & continued success is very smart. Some people tend to look at the short term while the ravens continue to look at the big picture creating sustained success within the organization. This is setting up to be a battle within the division & I’ll be tuning in to see how it all plays out in the AFC North.