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 to the back half of the defense, taking a look at the AFC North CBs rooms.
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 CBs list:
- Cincinnati Bengals
- Baltimore Ravens
- Pittsburgh Steelers
- Cleveland Browns
1. Baltimore Ravens
Last year in free agency, the Baltimore Ravens added Brandon Carr, signing him away from the Dallas Cowboys, giving the Ravens a stout 1-2 combination with him and Jimmy Smith on the boundary. On top of that, Baltimore selected Marlon Humphrey and Tavon Young, giving Baltimore a deep cornerbacks room.
Ozzie Newsome didn’t stop there, drafting Alabama’s Anthony Averett in the 2018 NFL Draft, while bringing in Stanley Jean-Baptiste late in the 2017 season. That doesn’t even begin to touch on guys like Maurice Canady, and Jaylen Hill, giving the Ravens the most talented and deepest cornerbacks room in the AFC North.
While the Ravens are loaded at cornerback, they still have yet to figure out how to slow down Antonio Brown, or AJ Green within their own division.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
I know that this group struggled down the stretch, but throughout much of the 2017 season, the Steelers’ cornerbacks rooms was pretty darn good.
The addition of Joe Haden late in the summer proved to be a much-needed boost at cornerback for the Steelers, while Mike Hilton was a diamond in the rough at slot cornerback, quickly becoming one of the best blitzing nickel guys in the league.
Artie Burns has shown flashes throughout his time as a Steeler, but he’s yet to consistently put it together week to week, let alone snap to snap. Maybe Year 3 is his coming out party.
Behind the starting trio, guys like Coty Sensabaugh, Brian Allen, Cameron Sutton, Dashaun Phillips, and Jamar Summers provide intriguing depth, with some positional flexibility.
3. Cincinnati Bengals
If Darqueze Dennard reached his ceiling as a former first round draft pick, the Bengals’ cornerbacks room could realistically jump the Ravens for the top spot. Alas, Dennard didn’t reach his ceiling (yet), but William Jackson III sure is on the fast track to the top cornerback in the AFC North sooner rather than later.
Opposite of WJ3, Dre Kirkpatrick signed a huge deal to remain with the Bengals last season, but his play dipped quite a bit last year, recording just one interception on the year. I’d still take him on my team though.
Behind the trio of Dennard, WJ3, and Kirkpatrick, KeiVarae Russell gives the Bengals an intriguing option going forward, as does Josh Shaw, who is more of a slot corner than a boundary guy.
The one corner I’m keeping my eyes on with the Bengals is rookie Darius Phillips. I loved his game coming out of Western Michigan, and was surprised to see him fall so far in the draft. If the Bengals develop him correctly, they have a shutdown corner on their hands.
4. Cleveland Browns
I’d have liked this group a whole heck of a lot more if they’d have kept Jason McCourty this off-season, instead of releasing him, allowing him to sign with his brother in New England.
With McCourty gone, Terrance Mitchell elevates into the No. 1 role for now, at least until rookie first round pick Denzel Ward takes over the No. 1 role like the Browns certainly hope he does.
EJ Gaines and TJ Carrie provide the Browns with solid, experienced depth, as Gaines can play boundary or slot, while Carrie has shown the ability to slide all over the field from his time with the Oakland Raiders.
Down the roster, rookies Simeon Thomas, and veteran Brien Boddy-Calhoun give the Browns very good depth, but it’s just not enough to elevate them over the three other teams in the AFC North.
Make no mistake, the cornerbacks in the AFC North are all strong groups.