2020 AFC North Draft

2020 AFC North Draft Report

Let’s grade the 2020 AFC North Draft, shall we?

If you’ve read the Sports are from Venus Mock Drafts, you know that I place a high premium on team needs in the draft.  These grades will reflect how well I think each team has done in addressing their weak spots.  

Baltimore Ravens

Picks

1st Round: 28 Patrick Queen, LB, LSU 

2nd Round: 55 J.K. Dobbins, RB Ohio State

3rd Round: 71 Justin Madubuike, DT, Texas A&M

3rd Round: 92 Devin Duvernay, WR, Texas

3rd Round: 98 Malik Harrison, LB, Ohio State

3rd Round: 106 Tyre Phillips, OT, Mississippi St.

Six picks in the first three rounds was a really nice haul for a team that didn’t have any real weaknesses going in.  Baltimore improved all over the field in this draft without getting myopic about building for the long term.  Patrick Queen is a monster tackler that will immediately improve one of the league’s best defenses.  J.K. Dobbins adds depth to running attack that boasts more output than star power and Devin Duvernay is a speedster that will excel in a slot role for the Ravens. 

The three other picks add palpable depth to the defense and the O-line.  Look out AFC North.  Baltimore isn’t interested in giving up the crown for a while. 

Grade: A. I can’t quibble with any of this, Baltimore showed how the rich can get richer in the draft. 

Cincinnati Bengals

Picks

1st Round: 1 Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

2nd Round: 33 Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

3rd Round: 65 Logan Wilson, LB, Wyoming

The Bengals held firm and took the guy we all knew they would to lead the franchise into the next decade.  I know that guys like me all over the country are already putting Burrow in the Hall of Fame, but I’m not there yet. 

The Bengals aren’t called the Bungles for no reason. 

Burrow might be great, but unless they make the right moves around him, they can still struggle in the gritty AFC North.  Tee Higgins might not be the speediest receiver in the draft, but I like his size and possession skills to help his fellow rookie QB tremendously right from the start.  I had him graded into the first round, so we’ve got to consider him a steal, even early in round two.  

Grade:  B+. Assuming that Burrow becomes a Pro Bowler.  If Burrow doesn’t become one of the greats of the next decade, we’ll remember this Bengals draft as a total whiff.  Sorry, I don’t make the rules.  

Cleveland Browns

Picks

1st Round: 10 Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama

2nd Round: 44 Grant Delpit, S, LSU

3rd Round: 88 Jordan Elliot, DL, Missouri

3rd Round: 97 Jacob Phillips, LB, LSU

I’m not going to lie.  I like this draft by the Browns. 

After a year of shattered expectations fueled by too much focus on explosive skill position players, the Browns went into this draft and stayed on target, using picks to protect Baker Mayfield and control the line of scrimmage. 

Jedrick Wills will protect Baker Mayfield and help in the running game.  Grant Delpit may have slipped to the second round, but if you want to see his potential, check out his 2018 season at LSU.  5 interceptions, 5 sacks, 9.5 tackles for loss, 74 total tackles.  For a safety.  That’s a game changing defensive talent right there.  Those numbers all eroded slightly in 2019, but his sliding all the way to 44th overall represent recency bias more than a realistic view of his potential in the NFL.  A few more picks shore up a defensive unit that needed more depth and consistency.  

Grade: B.  This draft makes the Browns better at the nuts and bolts part of competitive football.  I’m somewhat surprised and happy for Browns fans.  

Pittsburgh Steelers

Picks

2nd Round: 49 Chase Claypool, WR, Notre Dame

3rd Round: 102 Alex Highsmith, LB, Charlotte

The Steelers didn’t have a first-round pick, having sent it off to Miami for Minkah Fitzpatrick.  I’m going to call that a solid win for a team that flirted with a wildcard slot all last season after the trade. 

Chase Claypool was the Fighting Irish’s top receiver in 2019, and while he isn’t especially elusive after the catch, his combination of size (6’4”, 238 lbs.) and speed (4.42- 40) will pose coverage nightmares for opposing cornerbacks, especially along the sidelines, where Big Ben can put the ball where only his guy can go get it.  Alex Highsmith is a LB/Edge guy with some serious upside if he can improve his physicality at the next level.  His production skyrocketed over the past few seasons, showing great work ethic and commitment to improvement.  It might be a gamble that he can learn to deal with pro-level blockers, but clearly the Steelers saw something that they liked.  At this point, I won’t question it too much. 

Grade: B-.  I have an instinct to trust Mike Tomlin and crew here, but there’s not a slam dunk Pro Bowl-caliber talent here, nor can I be sure that Pittsburgh will be able to get any closer to the Ravens in the tough AFC North.   

For more thoughts and opinions from Tom, check out his author page.

Image Source: CBS Sports

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