Jonathan Taylor
AP
Draft Decisions

NFL Draft Needs: AFC North

Updated On: April 18, 2020, 1:29 pm ET

The Rotoworld Football crew’s Ian Hartitz, Nick Mensio, John Daigle and Hayden Winks are breaking down every team's biggest needs, division by division, and Josh Norris offers potential solutions in this month's NFL Draft.

For a breakdown on every team, check out the team-by-team draft preview schedule.

Baltimore Ravens

Notable Offseason Additions: DE Calais Campbell, DE Derek Wolfe

Starting Offense

QB: Lamar Jackson
RB: Mark Ingram
WR1: Marquise Brown
WR2: Willie Snead
WR3: Miles Boykin
TE: Mark Andrews
LT: Ronnie Stanley
LG: Bradley Bozeman
C: Matt Skura
RG: Ben Powers
RT: Orlando Brown

Starting Defense

DE: Calais Campbell
NT: Brandon Williams
DT: Derek Wolfe
LOLB: Matt Judon
ROLB: Jaylon Ferguson
ILB: L.J. Fort
ILB: Chris Board
CB: Marcus Peters
CB: Jimmy Smith
SCB: Marlon Humphrey
S: Earl Thomas
S: Chuck Clark

 

Team Needs

Mensio’s Analysis

Inside Linebacker: After losing C.J. Mosley last offseason and not replacing him, the Ravens let Patrick Onwuasor leave this year as a free agent, as he joined Mosley in New York with the Jets. Downhill thumper Josh Bynes also left to join the rival Bengals. L.J. Fort is a journeyman who played 269 snaps last year, while Chris Board is a third-year UDFA who didn’t play a snap after Week 7. Some teams don’t place a whole lot of value on off-ball linebackers, so we’ll see what route GM Eric DeCosta takes during the draft or if he plugs the holes with stopgap vets.

Edge Rusher: 27-year-old Matt Judon was slapped with the franchise tag after leading the team with a career-high 9.5 sacks last season. He’s not exactly a dominant pass-rusher off the edge, and there’s even talk the Ravens could trade Judon after tagging him. No team blitzed more than the Ravens a year ago, essentially relying on that method to generate pressure. Judon was often left free when the Ravens brought more than the offense could block. This defense needs its replacement for Terrell Suggs after he was the Ravens’ feared rusher for years.

Wide Receiver: Rookie Marquise Brown led all Ravens wideouts in receiving last year, compiling a 46-584-7 line. Willie Snead was next in line with his meager 31-339-5 effort. Miles Boykin showed flashes last preseason and could be a candidate for a Year 2 leap. Still, this offense could use more dynamic weapons for Lamar Jackson. Seth Roberts left for the Panthers on a one-year deal. Snead would ideally be a No. 4 wideout on a good team.

 

Ravens’ 2020 Draft Picks

Norris’ Options

1 (28). ILB Patrick Queen, LSU - The Ravens have routinely built through their defense from the inside-out. That changed a bit defensively last year. Not for the worse, but it was notably different. Thus far this offseason, a clear goal has been to improve the spine. Adding a rangy linebacker at the second level is an injection of talent the team could use.

2 (55). G Damien Lewis, LSU - Landing this pick for Hayden Hurst is great business. Returning almost every starter on both sides of the ball while retaining both coordinators is an incredible feat for a team that dominated the regular season. However, losing Yanda might prove to be massive. Enter Lewis, an above average athlete who moves people in the running game.

2 (60). EDGE Jabari Zuniga, Florida - Incomplete athletic testing numbers will make it incredibly difficult for teams to separate this pass rushing class. Zuniga completed everything but the agility scores in Indianapolis and passed with flying colors. He has upside, and once he learns to start attacking the edges Zuniga could be a very solid disruptor.

3 (92). WR Bryan Edwards, South Carolina - Edwards has become a draft media darling. His top highlights place him among this draft’s best. The same could have been said for Miles Boykin last season, a player who I still believe in. Edwards did suffer a broken foot early in the draft process, so he might wind up closer to round three or round four. He reminds me of James Jones.

3 (106). C Nick Harris, Washington - At the pivot spot, the Ravens might rely on previously injured Matt Skura or late-round pick Bradley Bozeman. Why not throw another hat in the ring? Harris is mobile, active and has over 700 snaps to his name in each of the last three seasons. He’s exciting in space.

4 (129). RB A.J. Dillon, Boston College - I know running back is not a need, but the fit is perfect. Dillon is a bruising downhill runner with outstanding athleticism. Think of him as a more explosive Gus Edwards, and possibly on the Derrick Henry spectrum - albeit a notch or two lower.

4 (134). TE Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri - With the Ravens landing a second-round pick in exchange for their third tight end, why not take a swing at the position? A sub-4.5 forty at over 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds, Okwuegbunam has real receiving upside. Maybe he can fill Hayden Hurst’s role.

5 (157). S Brandon Jones, Texas - There’s always room on the roster for an aggressive downhill safety. Jones can be exciting when blitzing off the edge and also established his place in the middle of the field in coverage.

7 (225). LB Khaleke Hudson, Michigan - An above-average athlete who was asked to play in the box and over top of slot targets. His sub-six-foot stature might propel him to the third day.

Click on a link below to jump directly to another AFC North team or continue to the next page:

Ravens | Steelers | Browns | Bengals

The Rotoworld Football crew’s Ian Hartitz, Nick Mensio, John Daigle and Hayden Winks are breaking down every team's biggest needs, division by division, and Josh Norris offers potential solutions in this month's NFL Draft.

For a breakdown on every team, check out the team-by-team draft preview schedule.

Cincinnati Bengals

Notable Offseason Additions: WR Mike Thomas, OG Xavier Su’a-Filo, NT D.J. Reader, LB Josh Bynes, CB Trae Waynes, CB Mackensie Alexander, CB LeShaun Sims, S Vonn Bell

Starting Offense

QB: Andy Dalton
RB: Joe Mixon
WR1: A.J. Green
WR2: Tyler Boyd
WR3: John Ross
TE: C.J. Uzomah
LT: Jonah Williams
LG: Michael Jordan
C: Trey Hopkins
RG: Xavier Su’a-Filo
RT: Bobby Hart

Starting Defense

LE: Carlos Dunlap
RE: Sam Hubbard
DT: Geno Atkins
NT: D.J. Reader
WLB: Shawn Williams
MLB: Josh Bynes
SLB: Germaine Pratt
CB: Trae Waynes
CB: William Jackson
SCB: Mackensie Alexander
S: Vonn Bell
S: Jessie Bates

Team Needs

Quarterback: The rebuilding Bengals are going to take Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick in this month’s draft, which they hope will solve the quarterback spot for many years to come. Andy Dalton will likely be traded or released, and Ryan Finley and Jake Dolegala are lined up as the backups. Finley was dreadful in his midseason starts last year. Cincy could use a veteran No 2, so maybe they’ll even keep Dalton around for the final year of his deal as a mentor.

Offensive Line: The Bengals have needs all over the field. Their offensive line was 29th in adjusted line yards created in the ground game and 21st in adjusted sack rate as pass blockers. Last year’s first-round pick LT Jonah Williams will be back after missing his entire rookie season to shoulder surgery, and C Trey Hopkins inked a fresh three-year extension in December. Cincinnati has questions at both guard spots and could seriously use an upgrade on RT Bobby Hart. 2018 first-rounder Billy Price was drafted as a center but played guard under first-year coach Zac Taylor and is no lock to return in 2020 after grading out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 80 guard out of 82 qualifiers. He wasn’t drafted by this coaching staff. Michael Jordan wasn’t much better as PFF’s No. 78 guard last year as a fourth-round rookie. Hart was the No. 70 tackle out of 81 qualifiers. Xavier Su’a-Filo is only being paid $3 million per year on average. He’s no lock to start and shouldn’t be viewed as any sort of blockade to an incoming rookie.

Tight End: Tyler Eifert left for the Jaguars as a free agent, signing a two-year deal. C.J. Uzomah is fine as a starter and has shown flashes in the past, and Drew Sample is heading into Year 2 after being taken in the second round last April. Maybe this isn’t that pressing of a need, but it can’t hurt to surround presumed No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow with as much talent possible.

 

Bengals’ Draft Picks

Norris’ Options

1 (1). QB Joe Burrow, LSU - The correct pick. Burrow possesses great anticipation and is comfortable working off primary and secondary reads. Despite playing on an uber-talented team, Burrow still was forced to play off script and out of structure quite often, and he seemed to rise to the occasion every single time. Burrow finds comfort in chaos. He has the confidence and mentality to carry his team in moments when they should fail. That is a personality trait, and even quarterbacks with all of the skills don’t have it.

2 (33). LB Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma - The Bengals have lacked athletes at linebacker for years. Murray has a projected athletic profile in the 94th percentile and is an absolute nightmare moving forward, absolutely destroying play concepts in front of him. That would be useful against the Ravens, Browns and Steelers.

3 (65). WR Devin Duvernay, Texas - If all three receivers stay healthy for the Bengals, it’s a group you can absolutely win with. The issue is both A.J. Green and John Ross have missed extended time in recent years. Duvernay is an exciting downfield playmaker, especially out of the slot where he spent the majority of his time last season.

4 (107). G Jonah Jackson, Ohio State - The Bengals certainly like drafting Ohio State blockers, even if the results have been mixed. Jackson is a favorite of PFF’s Mike Renner as he constantly accomplishes his assignment despite lacking ideal measurements and athleticism.

5 (147). TE Devin Asiasi, UCLA - With Eifert gone, the team could use a playmaker at tight end. Asiasi is super comfortable with the ball in his hands with creating yards on his own and has a chance to make plays down the seam in the NFL.

6 (180). CB Lamar Jackson, Nebraska - A long outside corner who has issues losing early in routes, but has the length and athleticism to recover.

7 (215). RB JaMycal Hasty, Baylor - If the Bengals select a running back in the top three rounds, it likely reveals their thoughts on potentially signing Joe Mixon to a long-term deal. In this case, Hasty is added for depth.

Click on a link below to jump directly to another AFC North team or continue to the next page:

Ravens | Steelers | Browns | Bengals

The Rotoworld Football crew’s Ian Hartitz, Nick Mensio, John Daigle and Hayden Winks are breaking down every team's biggest needs, division by division, and Josh Norris offers potential solutions in this month's NFL Draft.

For a breakdown on every team, check out the team-by-team draft preview schedule.

Cleveland Browns

Notable Offseason Additions: QB Case Keenum, FB Andy Janovich, TE Austin Hooper, RT Jack Conklin, DE Adrian Clayborn, DT Andrew Billings, LB B.J. Goodson, CB Kevin Johnson, S Karl Joseph, S Andrew Sendejo

Starting Offense

QB: Baker Mayfield
RB: Nick Chubb
WR1: Odell Beckham
WR2: Jarvis Landry
WR3: Damion Ratley
TE: Austin Hooper
LT: Chris Hubbard
LG: Joel Bitonio
C: J.C. Tretter
RG: Wyatt Teller
RT: Jack Conklin

Starting Defense

LE: Myles Garrett
RE: Olivier Vernon
DT: Larry Ogunjobi
DT: Sheldon Richardson
WLB: Mack Wilson
MLB: B.J. Goodson
SLB: Sione Takitaki
CB: Denzel Ward
CB: Greedy Williams
SCB: Kevin Johnson
S: Karl Joseph
S: Andrew Sendejo

 

Team Needs

Left Tackle: The Browns laughably went into last season with Greg Robinson as their left tackle. That was the beginning of the end for GM John Dorsey and coach Freddie Kitchens, who lost their jobs at the end of the year. Robinson has since been arrested for marijuana possession at the Mexican border this offseason, and it’s already been announced he won’t be re-signed. Cleveland has no in-house option to replace him, so the focus of the offseason for new GM Andrew Berry is to find Baker Mayfield’s blindside protector. The Browns are believed to be among the front-runners for embattled Redskins LT Trent Williams via trade. Last season’s starting RT Chris Hubbard has been a bust as a 2018 free-agent pickup and can’t be trusted at left tackle.

Safety: The Browns used five safeties last season pretty heavily, and Damarious Randall led the five in snaps before signing with the Raiders last week. Juston Burris received strong marks from Pro Football Focus and also left in free agency for the Panthers. Morgan Burnett was released in a cap-savings move. Karl Joseph and Andrew Sendejo are both playing on one-year deals. They’re merely stopgap options in an effort to install new DC Joe Woods’ system.

Linebacker: Joe Schobert priced his way out of Cleveland by signing a five-year, $53.75 million deal with the Jaguars. Schobert was a true every-down linebacker and one of the defensive mainstays for the Browns. Replacing him won’t be easy, though linebacker is widely viewed as one of the easier positions to find contributors. The Browns used 2019 mid-round picks on LBs Sione Takitaki and Mack Wilson, but it’s unclear how the new regime views the two. B.J. Goodson has starting experience but is on a low-end one-year deal. New defensive coordinators Joe Woods and Jeff Howard came from defenses where they had every-down studs like Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, Fred Warner, Kwon Alexander and Dre Greenlaw.

 

Browns’ Draft Picks

Norris’ Options

1 (10). OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia - The Browns are in a perfect spot to lock down their No. 1 need. The top of the tackle class is full of talent and Thomas might be the best of the bunch. While his kick slide might look a little awkward, Thomas is absolutely athletic enough to hold up on an island and his pass set his not passive. Thomas wants to be the hammer in both phases of the game.

2 (41). S Ashtyn Davis, Cal - Davis likely fits somewhere in the top 50 picks thanks to his versatility. Davis spent the majority of his time as a rangy free safety, but around 30% of his combined snaps saw him reside in the box or in the slot. He finds the football.

3 (74). LB Akeem Davis-Gaither - Davis-Gaither’s tape can mirror Takitaki’s in terms of winning from multiple alignments. He plays off the ball, then will shift to rushing off the edge. Despite toeing the line around 230 pounds, ADG is extremely competitive against tackles almost 100 pounds heavier than him. His play strength is fantastic.

3 (97). G Jon Runyan, Michigan - While Runyan played left tackle last season for the Wolverines, he will likely shift inside in the NFL. Why? Runyan seems to lose when asked to block on an island, allowing speed rushers to beat him around the hoop. He will likely succeed in more confined space at guard. Phonebooth blocking.

4 (115). WR John Hightower, Boise State - If the Browns need an injection of talent in their receiver group, it might come in the form of a deep threat. Hightower is one of the best in this class, averaging 18 and 16 yards per reception over the last two seasons.

6 (187). DB Alohi Gilman, Notre Dame - Likely projects best as a big slot, operating in the box or near the line of scrimmage.

7 (244). iDL McTelvin Agim, Arkansas - Interior line help with many of the Browns’ current disruptors nearing the end of their contracts.

Click on a link below to jump directly to another AFC North team or continue to the next page:

Ravens | Steelers | Browns | Bengals

The Rotoworld Football crew’s Ian Hartitz, Nick Mensio, John Daigle and Hayden Winks are breaking down every team's biggest needs, division by division, and Josh Norris offers potential solutions in this month's NFL Draft.

For a breakdown on every team, check out the team-by-team draft preview schedule.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Notable Offseason Additions: FB Derek Watt, TE Eric Ebron, LG Stefen Wisniewski, DT Chris Wormley

Starting Offense

QB: Ben Roethlisberger
RB: James Conner
WR1: JuJu Smith-Schuster
WR2: James Washington
WR3: Diontae Johnson
TE: Eric Ebron
LT: Alejandro Villanueva
LG: Stefen Wisniewski
C: Maurkice Pouncey
RG: David DeCastro
RT: Matt Feiler

Starting Defense

DT: Cameron Heyward
NT: Chris Wormley
DE: Stephon Tuitt
LOLB: T.J. Watt
ROLB: Bud Dupree
ILB: Devin Bush
ILB: Vince Williams
CB: Joe Haden
CB: Steven Nelson
SCB: Mike Hilton
S: Minkah Fitzpatrick
S: Terrell Edmunds

 

Team Needs

Offensive Line: Longtime LG Ramon Foster retired, and the Steelers replaced him with 31-year-old Stefen Wisniewski. C Maurkice Pouncey turns 31 over the summer, and RG David DeCastro is 30. Starters LT Alejandro Villanueva and RT Matt Feiler are a year away from free agency. Chukwuma Okorafor and Zach Banner are options at tackle, but the Steelers have literally no depth along the interior. This line needs an injection of youth.

Running Back: The Steelers have seemed to sour on James Conner a bit after he just couldn’t stay healthy last season. There were even internet rumors of the team looking back into a Le’Veon Bell reunion. That’s not happening, but the Steelers could use a backfield mate for Conner as he heads into his contract year. Jaylen Samuels disappointed in his action as the No. 1 back last year, and 2019 draft pick Benny Snell is not a long-term starter.

Wide Receiver: In the first year sans Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster couldn’t stay healthy and didn’t make an impact when on the field. We’re chalking most of that up to Ben Roethlisberger being out, leaving JuJu to catch wildly inaccurate passes from Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges. Expect a bounce-back year from Smith-Schuster. Diontae Johnson and James Washington have talent, but the Steelers could take advantage of a strong wideout class.

 

Steelers’ Draft Picks

Norris’ Options

2 (49). RB Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin - This might seem early for a back, but all indications are the team is ready to move on from James Conner. A.J. Dillon is a great fit a round or two later, but Taylor is a plug and play difference-maker. He has plenty of experience running from traditional single or dual back sets, but also presents big-play upside and a slalom skiers’ mentality when working through the second level.

3 (102). OL Robert Hunt, Louisiana-Lafayette - Hunt lined up at right tackle in college. I expect him to shift inside to guard. The fun part of this exercise is identifying new favorite prospects while watching tape for these write-ups. Hunt now qualifies. He’s always working to move his opponent off the spot, forcing them into positions against their will. However, that does lead to overextension. Reel him in a bit and you could have something special.

4 (124). WR Tyler Johnson, Minnesota - With reports that JuJu could be approaching his final season in black and yellow, the Steelers could continue to prioritize the position. Johnson did not attend the Senior Bowl or Shine Game, then did not participate at the Combine … but his highlights are awesome. Acrobatic catches and taking slants for six.

4 (135). iDL Rashard Lawrence, LSU - Javon Hargrave’s presence might be felt more now that he’s no longer on the roster. Obviously with Tuitt and Heyward locked in, it was impossible to pay another. Lawrence might not be as explosive as Hargrave, but he can fill the same inside alignment.

6 (198). LB Shaquille Quarterman, Miami - The Steelers traded up for Devin Bush last season, but at the very least they can use depth at the position.

7 (232). C Jake Hanson, Oregon - As Nick pointed out, the depth along the Steelers’ offensive line is severely lacking. Hanson was a Ducks’ starter for three years.

Click on a link below to jump directly to another AFC North team:

Ravens | Steelers | Browns | Bengals


Source URL: https://www.nbcsports.com/edge/article/draft-decisions/nfl-draft-needs-afc-north