For the third straight year, we’re continuing the Ranking the Rooms: AFC North series here at Steelers Depot. You can find the latest rankings here. Today, we’ll move outside, taking a look at the AFC North TEs room.
I’ll personally run down each position, starting with the quarterbacks in the division, and ending with specialists in this 10-part series.
In case you forgot the rankings from last summer, I have you covered.
Here is the 2017 Ranking the Rooms: AFC North TEs list:
1, Baltimore Ravens
2. Cincinnati Bengals
3. Cleveland Browns
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
Let’s take a look at the 2018 rankings for tight ends in the AFC North.
1, Cincinnati Bengals
On paper, the Bengals are pretty stacked at tight end, with names like Tyler Kroft, CJ Uzomah, and Tyler Eifert all at their disposal at tight end. While none of the three are big names at this point in their careers, all three have been productive tight ends in their NFL careers.
Due to the experience, and versatility of all three, the Bengals are the clear-cut best tight ends group in the AFC North.
Kroft has become the No. 1 tight end for the Bengals, while Uzomah has emerged as a consistent No. 2 option at tight end for the Bengals, but this all hinges on Eifert, who hasn’t been able to stay healthy since coming into the league. When on the field, there are few tight ends better than Eifert, but the Notre Dame product averages just 7.8 games per season in his 5-year career.
If all three can stay healthy and produce, there might not be a deeper tight ends group in the league, let alone the AFC North.
2. Baltimore Ravens
While I said following the 2018 NFL Draft that I wasn’t a huge believer in rookie tight end Hayden Hurst, I did say I loved Mark Andrews, whom the Ravens snagged in the middle of the draft, giving Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson two good, young tight ends to work with.
Hurst is more of the traditional tight end, while Andrews can be the move tight end for Baltimore. If I had to bet money on the two, I’d put my money on Andrews having a better career.
The loss of Dennis Pitta to yet another hip injury was debilitating for the Ravens, which led to general manager Ozzie Newsome using two picks on tight ends in the draft.
Although the Ravens fall a spot here in the rankings, the additions of Hurst and Andrews, along with veterans Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle, give the Ravens a bright future at the tight end position.
3, Pittsburgh Steelers
Last year, the Steelers came in dead last, due to a position group that saw the release of No. 1 TE Ladarius Green, elevating Jesse James into the No. 1 position at the time. Fortunately for the Steelers, general manager Kevin Colbert swung a trade late in training camp that netted versatile tight end Vance McDonald from the 49ers for a draft pick.
While McDonald has had a tough time staying healthy with the Steelers, when on the field he’s proven to be a perfect fit for Pittsburgh’s offense, giving the Steelers a bonafide No. 1 tight end for Ben Roethlisberger, the first since the retirement of Heath Miller.
Along with McDonald, James has grown into his role as a No. 2 tight end, developing a solid rapport with Roethlisberger over the last few years. In a limited role, James has hauled in seven touchdowns in three seasons.
Behind McDonald and James, Xavier Grimble came on strong at the end of last season as a blocker, carving out a role, while young tight ends such as Pharoah McKever, Ryan Malleck, and Christian Scotland-Williamson are depth pieces that the Steelers will get a look at this summer.
4, Cleveland Browns
The Browns fall a spot in the rankings from 2017 to 2018, largely due to the release of Gary Barnidge, leaving the Browns thin at tight end. While David Njoku had a strong rookie season (32 receptions, 12.1 yards per catch, four touchdowns), Seth DeValve was rather quiet during the 2017 season despite a strong hype train leading up to the first week of the season.
Njoku’s future is incredibly bright, but DeValve and Darren Fells, as well as Devon Cajuste, don’t provide much depth behind Cleveland’s young, electrifying tight end.