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Around the AFC North: How Ravens' Rivals Improved in Draft


Sports Illustrated's Conor Orr wrote that the Ravens, who won the AFC North by six games last year, have widened the gap this offseason, "putting some serious distance between themselves and the rest of the division."

With that said, the Ravens' divisional foes still had good drafts too. Here's who they got:

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Round 2 (49) – WR Chase Claypool, Notre Dame
  • Round 3 (102) – EDGE Alex Highsmith, Charlotte
  • Round 4 (124) – RB Anthony McFarland, Maryland
  • Round 4 (135) – G Kevin Dotson, Louisiana-Lafayette
  • Round 6 (198) – S Antoine Brooks Jr., Maryland
  • Round 17 (232) – DT Carlos Davis, Nebraska

The Steelers traded their first-round pick last season for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, which considering the standout season he had seems to have been the right move. Claypool is a big-bodied (6-foot-4, 238 pounds) wideout who caught 66 passes for 1,037 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. His NFL comp is none other than former Notre Dame teammate and current Raven Miles Boykin, per’s Lance Zierlein. Pittsburgh traditionally drafts well at wide receiver. Will he be the next great one?

Highsmith posted a staggering 15 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss last season. There are questions about his physicality to set the edge, but his pass rush ability only boosts a team that already led the NFL in sacks last season.

The Steelers grabbed a couple of former Terps on Day 3, including a somewhat polarizing prospect in McFarland. Pittsburgh has drafted three Maryland players the past two years and grabbed former Terps safety Sean Davis in the second round in 2016. Head Coach Mike Tomlin's son, Dino, is a wide receiver at Maryland and former Terps interim coach Matt Canada is on Pittsburgh's staff.

Big guard prospect Robert Hunt went early in Round 2, so the Steelers drafted his teammate in Dotson, a big-bodied, run mauler who didn't get invited to the Combine. Pundits were surprised they didn't get a running back until Round 4. Pittsburgh passed on J.K. Dobbins in the second round and will now have to face him twice a year.

Highest grade:, A-
Lowest grade: NESN, D+

Cleveland Browns

  • Round 1 (10) – OT Jedrick Wills, Alabama
  • Round 2 (44) – S Grant Delpit, LSU
  • Round 3 (88) – DT Jordan Elliott, Missouri
  • Round 3 (97) – LB Jacob Phillips, LSU
  • Round 4 (115) – TE Harrison Bryant, Florida Atlantic
  • Round 5 (160) – C Nick Harris, Washington
  • Round 6 (187) – WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, Michigan

Cleveland doubled down on its mission to give Baker Mayfield better protection, drafting perhaps the best tackle prospect in the draft (Wills) after signing Jack Conklin to a big deal in free agency. Wills is especially dominant as a run blocker.

Delpit fell a little lower than some expected perhaps because of concerns about his tackling. Elliott got Pro Football Focus' highest overall grade of any interior defensive line prospect in this year's class over the past two years.

The Browns also attacked the tight end spot this offseason by signing Austin Hooper in free agency and drafting Bryant, a well-rounded player who Zierlein compared to 49ers Pro Bowler George Kittle. Peoples-Jones was projected by some to go much higher than the sixth round and is a big-bodied wideout on the outside.

In his first draft as the Browns' general manager, Andrew Berry received widespread praise.

Highest grade: PFF, A+
Lowest grade: Sports Illustrated, B+

Cincinnati Bengals

  • Round 1 (1) – QB Joe Burrow, LSU
  • Round 2 (33) – WR Tee Higgins, Clemson
  • Round 3 (65) – LB Logan Wilson, Wyoming
  • Round 4 (107) – LB Akeem Davis-Gaither, Appalachian State
  • Round 5 (147) – EDGE Khalid Kareem, Notre Dame
  • Round 6 (180) – G Hakeem Adeniji, Kansas
  • Round 7 (215) – LB Markus Bailey, Purdue

Of course, the most important pick is No. 1-overall with Joe Burrow, the Heisman Trophy-winning national champion. It was a no-duh pick for a player that had one of the best college football seasons ever for a quarterback. But is he a can't-miss prospect?

Higgins' pro comp, per Zierlein, is A.J. Green. If so, the Bengals now have two A.J. Greens, Tyler Boyd and John Ross as receiving weapons for Burrow. Including running back Joe Mixon, the Bengals have major talent at the skill positions.

Like Baltimore, Cincinnati doubled up at inside linebacker with a tackling machine in Wilson and the fast, rangy Davis-Gaither. Unlike the Ravens, the Bengals plucked both from smaller programs. The Bengals allowed the most rushing yards per game in the NFL last year, and particularly struggled to stop Lamar Jackson (remember the spin move touchdown?).

Pundits' biggest gripe about the Bengals' class is they didn't take an offensive lineman until Round 6 after having issues there last season and releasing Cordy Glenn. The Bengals will get last year's first-round pick, offensive tackle Jonah Williams, back after he missed his rookie season with a torn labrum (shoulder), but they still have question marks on the line with a rookie quarterback behind it.

Highest grade: Sporting News, A+
Lowest grade: Walter Football, C+

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