We’re beginning to put a bow on the 2023 NFL Draft. Most of our focus has been on what the Pittsburgh Steelers did but I’ll pan out and and look at the AFC North as a whole with a quick recap and analysis on the totality of their classes, ranking them 1-4.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers
You know most of my thoughts by now, I’m sure. A really good draft for Omar Khan with pieces falling into place throughout it. Trading up to get his OT in Broderick Jones, landing Joey Porter Jr. at #32, Keeanu Benton at #49, and Darnell Washington at #93 (trading down and getting back a fourth-round pick in the process).
I won’t pretend like there aren’t some concerns here because there are. Jones’ rawness, Porter’s more-specific scheme fit, Benton lacking monster upside, and Washington an awkward mover with more risk than people realize, but it fits with everything Pittsburgh’s looking for. Throw in Nick Herbig in the fourth round, an instant quality special teamer, and the very worthwhile risk on CB Cory Trice Jr. in the 7th round, and the Steelers had the best draft of the AFC North and one of the best in the NFL.
Draft Grade: A
2. Cincinnati Bengals
A pass rusher in Myles Murphy wasn’t a major need in Round One but the Bengals, like most even fronts, value and need a deep d-line. Murphy probably won’t be a premier pass rusher but was a fine first round pick. Getting the inside/outside CB DJ Turner at #60 was a solid selection while S Jordan Battle in the third was an average pick, a player with physical tools but tape that didn’t always match the measurables.
Their Day Three selections focused on skill and speed with WRs Charlie Jones and Andrei Iosivas along with RB Chase Brown. The Bengals know their bread is buttered through their ability to score points and Jones and Iosivas’ body types complement each other well. Brown is quality depth for a shaky-looking backfield. I liked the Saturday haul for the Bengals who didn’t hit a home run here but a solid double off the wall.
Draft Grade: B
3. Baltimore Ravens
Grabbing WR Zay Flowers at #22 in the middle of a first-round WR run was huge. They need weapons for Lamar Jackson and Flowers is a three-level player, though probably not a true #1 a passing attack will be built around. While the Ravens typically have ultra-strong drafts, a lack of capital hurt them here, no second-round pick or endless compensatory selections. Trent Simpson at #86 is solid value in the third round but the league is finding getting a hyper-athlete inside linebacker can be a tough fit, especially in the AFC North.
EDGE Tavius Robinson is the Ravens’ type of pass rusher, big and long, while I liked CB Kyu Blu Kelly in the fifth round. Trading up for USC OG Andrew Vorhees in the seventh round is a chance worth taking, even if he won’t be able to contribute until 2024.
The Ravens’ haul comes close to matching the Bengals but Cincinnati had more depth and quality throughout, giving them the edge.
Draft Grade: B-
4. Cleveland Browns
It shouldn’t come as a shock to see the Browns bring up the rear of the North given the fact they didn’t possess first- or second-round selections. Their first pick came at #74 with Tennessee WR Cedric Tillman. Advanced metrics and 2021 production (before his 2022 broken ankle) are kind to him but I see Tillman as a James Washington type. Good size, wins contested, not a special athlete who played in a wide-open offense and only aligned on one side of the field. He’s going to have a learning curve.
Getting NT Siaki Ika later in the round is…fine. He can plug the run and the Browns needed interior help. He’ll scratch that itch. Big Ohio State tackle Dawand Jones fell all the way into the fourth round and he’s a true coin flip. Talented, good tape, his career is totally up to him. It doesn’t matter that Cleveland has a good o-line coach in Bill Callahan. Jones decides how good he wants to be. That’s the bottom line.
DE Isaiah McGuire is a solid rotational pass rusher with size, power, and the ability to bend through contact but he’ll never be a star. QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson is a fifth-round throwaway while CB Cameron Mitchell was a little better. Cleveland went back to the Buckeye well in the seventh round with center Luke Wypler, whose lack of size and length makes him a pure NFL center with backup potential.
Draft Grade: C