NFL Draft Preview: AFC North

NFL Draft Preview: AFC North

Alyssa Brosious
3 years ago
4 min read


The Bengals got their franchise quarterback last year in Joe Burrow, who, up until his injury in Week 11, showed tons of promise. With Burrow worth the number one overall pick, Cincinnati will now look towards finding ways to support him and build into a division contender.

Cincy, who went 4-11-1 last season, has eight picks highlighted by pick number five overall. A pick that high is usually good, but it's even better when there are QB-needy teams ahead of you. The Bengals should be able to draft one of the two or three best non-quarterback prospects in the entire draft at fifth overall.

While there are a number of places to improve, the two that stand out the most for the Bengals are the offensive line and wide receiver. Before the injury, Burrow was taking more sacks than any other quarterback in the league, so improving the protection is a no-brainer. Meanwhile, giving Burrow an elite pass-catcher will go a long way into him reaching his ceiling as well. Fortunately, offensive tackle and wide receiver are arguably the two deepest positions in this draft.

Expect Cincy to be a realistic landing spot for Oregon OT Penei Sewell, considered by many the top o-line prospect in this draft class. They could draft Sewell and either double-up with an interior lineman in the second round or go with a second-tier receiver. Another option is drafting LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase, Burrow's old college teammate, or even Florida tight end Kyle Pitts before then addressing the line in round two. Either way, the Bengals are sure to get a high-caliber player in this draft.


The Browns made a legitimate case to be the surprise team of the 2020 season. Their 11-5 finish was capped off with nearly beating the defending champion Chiefs to advance to the AFC title game. But this team on the rise still has some areas they can address in the draft.

Cleveland currently owns nine draft picks, four of them coming from other teams in trades. Unlike previous years of owning top-10 picks, the Browns' highest selection comes at pick number 26. However, there are still a number of directions they can use that pick, along with their second and pair of third-round selections.

The Browns, like many teams in this draft, will be looking at a wide receiver to help out quarterback Baker Mayfield. But the two biggest areas of need are on the defensive side. Cleveland will look hard at drafting help along the defensive line, with Myles Garrett returning but not many others. The other area is cornerback, where the Browns are set to lose a pair of corners to free agency and could stand to upgrade the position in general.

Bearing that in mind, there should be a few edge-rushers available at pick number 26 for Cleveland to choose from. Michigan's Kwity Paye and Miami (FL)'s Gregory Rousseau are the two top prospects, but assuming they're both gone by the time the Browns are on the clock, guys like Jaelan Phillips from Miami (FL) and Azeez Ojulari from Georgia could be options. This isn't a great cornerback class past the top-two, so perhaps the Browns wait on that position and target one in the second round.


The Ravens ended the year strong, going from 6-5 and out of the playoff picture to 11-5 and a trip to the AFC Divisional round. But even coming off of three straight playoff berths and five consecutive seasons of .500 or better, Baltimore will be looking to improve some areas altogether and add depth in others by the time the draft rolls around.

Baltimore is sitting on seven picks, the highest of which is slotted at 27th overall, just one spot behind Cleveland. Their needs also align to a degree with the Browns, in the sense that wide receiver and edge rusher are pressing needs followed by safety help.

If Baltimore decides to prioritize receiving help for quarterback Lamar Jackson, two options who may be available at number 27 include Minnesota WR Rashod Bateman and Florida WR Karadius Toney. If they go edge rusher, players like Phillips and Ojulari may be reasonable options as well. Trading down into the early-second round could also be a possibility with the Ravens, as they could add to their seven total picks while still getting a player they were likely targeting in the first.


At one point, the Steelers seemed primed to claim home-field advantage through the playoffs after an 11-0 start, but that quickly evaporated with four losses in their final five games and a blowout loss to the Browns in the Wild Card round. Expect them to add depth to a number of areas throughout the draft.

As it stands, Pittsburgh's 24th overall selection is their first of eight draft picks, the latter three all coming from various trades. The draft needs for this team will be clearer as free agency goes on, but right now, the Steelers will likely look toward improving the offensive line, adding depth to the linebacker core and secondary, and perhaps even targeting a running back.

Should the Steelers go with the offensive line in round one, particularly the interior of the line, Ohio State's Wyatt Davis and Oklahoma's Creed Humphrey represent two options that would more than likely be available at pick number 24. Linebacker is thin past Penn State's Micah Parsons, but someone like Notre Dame OLB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah may be an option. Finally, with James Conner likely not returning as a free agent, Pittsburgh may be the landing spot of Alabama running back Najee Harris, considered by many to be the top back in the draft.

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