We’re rolling right along here in the 2020 version of the Ranking the Rooms: AFC North edition, I’ll take a look at the tight end rooms within the division.
Last season, the Bengals and Ravens battled it out for the top spot in the division with the Ravens coming out on top. This year though, the TE rooms rankings receives a major shakeup, thanks to an All-Pro caliber TE joining the division to prop up a basement dweller.
1. Cleveland Browns
The signing of free agent tight end Austin Hooper was a major surprise for the Cleveland Browns, but the addition of the All-Pro caliber TE to a loaded offense pushes the Browns’ TE room to the top of my rankings.
All Hooper has done in his career is catch 214 balls for 2,244 yards and 16 touchdowns in four years. In the last two years he emerged as a legitimate star in Atlanta with Matt Ryan and now becomes a possible security blanket for Baker Mayfield.
Behind Hooper, I’m still waiting for David Njoku to break out. The former first round pick has all the talent in the world, but he’s struggled to stay healthy and produce for Cleveland. The Browns didn’t hesitate to continue to try and build up the TE room in the draft, nabbing John Mackey Award winner Harrison Bryant out of Florida Atlantic, giving Cleveland three legitimate field-stretching tight ends for Mayfield to work with.
The problem is there isn’t really a blocker in the group, so it will be interesting to see how they attempt to run the football out of the spread when these three are on the field.
Guys like Stephen Carlson and Pharoah Brown provide average depth in Cleveland.
2. Baltimore Ravens
I think very highly of Mark Andrews, so having a star TE like Andrews in the mix certainly helps prop up the Ravens’ tight end room.
In his first full year with Lamar Jackson running the show offensively, Andrews emerged as one of the best three tight ends in football, hauling in 64 passes for 852 yards and 10 touchdowns, serving as the legitimate No. 1 receiver in Baltimore’s run heavy offense.
Behind Andrews, Nick Boyle is one of the top blocking tight ends in football and often serves as a sixth lineman for Baltimore. The dominance on the ground in 2019 by the Ravens was certainly aided by Boyle’s talent in the trenches.
I’m keeping my eyes on rookies Jacob Breeland and Eli Wolf this year too. Breeland is a seam stretcher who is coming off of a knee injury at Oregon that torpedoed his draft stock, while Wolf is a decent blocking tight end who could vie for the No. 3 TE role.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
This group, if healthy, has the potential to be the best TE room in the AFC North. However, health has always been an issue for Vance McDonald and Eric Ebron.
With Ben Roethlisberger back in the fold and a pass-first offense looking to get back on track, McDonald and Ebron could really tear defenses up. They just need to stay on the field. Both are solid red zone options and can work vertically to hamstring defensive coverages.
McDonald is the best blocker of the bunch and could be relied on to help the stagnate run game get off the ground.
Behind the two though, there’s very little depth. Zach Gentry is in line for the No. 3 TE job and should get a helmet on Sundays, but he’s not much of a blocker and fits more in the mold of a move TE, so snaps just won’t be there. Kevin Rader and Christian Scotland-Williamson will compete for a practice squad job again.
4. Cincinnati Bengals
Losing Tyler Eifert in free agency to Jacksonville hurts, but when you consider he struggles to stay healthy and hasn’t produced much in a few years, it’s understandable why the Bengals let the former first rounder walk.
However, Eifert was the top receiving option at the position for Cincinnati. Now, that load falls heavily on CJ Uzomah, whom I like. I just can’t see him carrying the No. 1 TE load.
Second-year pro Drew Sample is more of a block-first tight end, but he can become a weapon in the red zone for Burrow, should the Bengals use him properly.
Behind the top three, guys like Mason Schreck, Jordan Franks, Cethan Carter, and Moritz Bohringer provide depth for the Bengals to work with in the offseason. They’re just not moving the needle though.
Last Season’s Rankings
- Baltimore Ravens
2. Cincinnati Bengals
3. Cleveland Browns
4. Pittsburgh Steelers