The 2023 NFL Draft is now in the books, so it’s time for the annual NFL Draft Grades by Simon Shortt. Today we will be discussing the: AFC North.
Baltimore Ravens – B-
Team Needs: CB, WR, OL/DL Depth
The Baltimore Ravens might have won draft week by signing Lamar Jackson to a longterm contract extension. However, in terms of the draft itself they left something to be desired.
Their first pick of WR Zay Flowers was terrific. No notes. After that I was sure they’d help their cornerback room in rounds three or four. Instead they added to their LB/EDGE rooms for depth. Particularly LB Trenton Simpson in the third round was interesting. Is it a sign of what’s to come for Patrick Queen? Or do they plan on having all three of Simpson, Queen and Roquan Smith for the foreseeable future?
Considering they didn’t have a second round pick (which actually helps them because it became Smith), I was surprised they never traded back to accumulate more capital. Which likely would have helped with the CB issue I still see on this team. But they do get points for Andrew Vorhees falling all the way to the seventh round for what will effectively be a “medical redshirt” year as he comes back from injury.
Cincinatti Bengals – B+
Team Needs: DB, TE, T
The more I look at this draft, the more I like it. You could argue Cincinnati didn’t have any true holes on the roster other than safety. And it wasn’t a strong safety class this year, so I wouldn’t knock them for not going addressing it in the draft.
But they get Myles Murphy to add to the EDGE group in the first round, which wasn’t a true need. But Murphy was a highly rated player at a high value position who fell into their laps. With the first round tackles already gone this one made sense. You could argue for a tight end here, but this current Bengals era doesn’t invest big in the position.
Cleveland Browns – B
Team Needs: DL, LB
The Browns also had a solid draft. Obviously they spent their first round pick on Deshaun Watson, which has not yet paid off, and their second rounder on Elijah Moore. But starting in the third round they made some nice selections.
Cedric Tillman in the third round adds more talent to a now stacked WR room. They also add depth to an already strong offensive line with Dawand Jones in round four and Luke Wypler all the way down in round six!
The Browns have been slow rolling fixing this defensive front seven which is one of the worst run stopping groups in the league. They gave it some help with Siaki Ika in the third round and Isaiah McGuire in the fourth. It’s still a light investment (figuratively that is) but it’s an investment. I would have liked to see them add to their LB room as well, but it wasn’t really a strong class.
Pittsburgh Steelers – A+
Team Needs: T, CB, DL
The Pittsburgh Steelers had one of the very best drafts of the weekend. Moved up when needed, back when needed and made picks that fit positional and stylistic needs.
Moving up for Broderick Jones to upgrade the tackle room was big. Pittsburgh hadn’t drafted a round one offensive linemen since 2012. And Jones has the sort of upside you look for in a round one tackle. On Day 2 they get big, physical players in CB Joey Porter Jr and DT Keeanu Benton in round two, and TE Darnell Washington in round three.
The trades were a big part of what the Steelers did this weekend. They traded pick 120 to move up to take Jones ahead of the New York Jets. They then traded back from 80 to 93 to take Washington.
On Day 3 they added IOL depth and another big, physical corner to a room without much longterm investment in the seventh round, after taking LB/EDGE Nick Herbig in the fourth. Herbig will reportedly start as an edge rusher to provide depth, but may end up playing off the ball because of his size.
The NFL draft grades were good all around in the AFC North. With Lamar Jackson back with Baltimore each team has continued to load up for a tight division race this season.
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