Who had the best 2021 draft pick of the four teams in the AFC North division? Dan Parr of NFL.com released his draft grades for the AFC North a few days ago, and in them he gave the Steelers a solid B for their 2021 draft class. He also went as far as to say that the Steelers’ selection of running back Najee Harris at 24th overall in the first round was the best pick of the four AFC North teams this year.
“I know it’s become very popular to scoff at the notion of drafting a running back early,” Parr wrote. “You could argue that Kevin Colbert should have honed in on a different position — one that doesn’t produce late-round and undrafted gems as consistently as the running back spot — but I believe the team’s situation at RB cried out for something greater. Pittsburgh ranked dead last in rushing last season and entered last weekend without a single back who rushed for more than 3.4 yards per carry on the roster. Enter Harris, a do-it-all back who has drawn comps to Matt Forte and Steven Jackson. Give this man the rock 20-25 times per game and never look back.”
It’s hard to fault Parr foe his analysis when it comes to him naming Harris as the best pick in the AFC North. After all, the Steelers really needed a top running back this year and Harris was regarded by most to be the top one in this year’s draft class.
As for Parr giving the Steelers a B for their 2021 draft class haul, below is what he wrote on the reasoning for doing so.
“Sensing that the contending window is nearly shut with Ben Roethlisberger entering his age-39 season, the Steelers clearly were on a mission to upgrade the QB’s supporting cast on draft weekend,” Parr explained. “We’re not going to see a repeat of the worst rushing attack in the league now that they have Harris running through defenders. He’s the do-it-all back this team so badly needed. Now, with the twilight creeping in on Big Ben, we would have been a little more aggressive in Round 2 to land an offensive tackle, but it’s hard to argue with the value or fit for Freiermuth, who’s been compared to Tyler Eifert. GM Kevin Colbert did find help for the offensive line in the middle rounds. Green has some developing to do when it comes to pass protection, but he could be up to the challenge of filling the void left by Maurkice Pouncey’s retirement. The Steelers didn’t address the need for an edge rusher until Round 6, but landing Roche at Pick 216 was one of the best values of the draft. The merits of drafting a punter will be debated. If you’re going to pick one, make sure he’s built like a tank and can throw a touchdown pass.”
As for the rest of the AFC North division and his draft grades, Parr gave the Cleveland Browns an A-, the Cincinnati Bengals a B, and the Baltimore Ravens a B as well. It should be noted that Parr isn’t the only analyst to heap praise on the Browns for their 2021 draft class. Many are now on record as saying Cleveland had one of the best drafts since they addressed some key defensive needs.
Time will certainly tell who had the best 2021 draft when it comes to the AFC North division. That, time, however, usually is three years at a minimum.