2021 NFL Draft Grades: AFC North

As we near the end of the offseason moves, the AFC North has been very active. Outside of Cleveland, there were a few glaring needs for each team, and most of them were addressed. The Browns had one of the best drafts, and a lot fell perfectly for them. We will be getting some big fantasy football names in this division as well. Najee Harris is now RB1 in Pittsburgh, but there were way bigger needs. Joe Burrow will link back up with his WR1 as Ja’Marr Chase heads to Cincinnati.

Baltimore RavensBaltimore Ravens: B

1 (27): WR Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
1 (31): EDGE Odafe Oweh, Penn State
3 (94): OG Ben Cleveland, Georgia
3 (104): CB Brandon Stephens, SMU
4 (131): WR Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State
5 (160): CB Shaun Wade, Ohio State
5 (171): EDGE Daelin Hayes, Notre Dame
5 (184): TE Ben Mason, Michigan

Rashod Bateman is one of my favorite wide receivers after the big three, and Baltimore was a spot I thought he would go. This gives the offense a sure-handed wideout who has a versatile route tree. Bateman may not post big numbers in a bottom-five pass offense when it comes to volume, but he will make others around him better. After the Orlando Brown trade to Kansas City, they used that pick on Odafe Oweh. And a note to all, he wants to be called Odafe and not Jayson. Oweh has massive upside given his athleticism, but he is very raw when it comes to technique. However, this is a great landing spot given Baltimore’s track record for developing defensive players. While I thought going offensive line here was also in play, Oweh’s ceiling is off the charts.

Moving into round three, Baltimore did end up taking a guard. Ben Cleveland needs some coaching but has the size to be a solid lineman if the right coaching comes along. Brandon Stephens is a high motor player, but I don’t love this pick for Baltimore. His athletic ability is likely going to keep him from being a starting defensive back. They did add Shaun Wade and Tylan Wallace, who were two of my favorite Day 3 picks.

Cincinnati BengalsCincinnati Bengals: B

1 (5): WR Ja’Marr Chase, LSU
2 (46): OT Jackson Carman, Clemson
3 (69): EDGE Joseph Ossai, Texas
4 (111): EDGE Cameron Sample, Tulane
4 (122): DL Tyler Shelvin, LSU
4 (139): T D’Ante Smith, East Carolina
5 (149): K Evan McPherson, Florida
6 (190): C Trey Hill, Georgia
6 (202): RB Chris Evans, Michigan
7 (235): EDGE Wyatt Hubert, Kansas State

We might have thought Cincinnati had a tough decision between Sewell and Chase, but that might not have been the case internally. Ja’Marr Chase links back up with Joe Burrow and gives the Bengals an immediate alpha WR1 threat again. Chase, Higgins, and Boyd are a terrific trio of wide receivers moving forward. Since they didn’t go, Sewell, they traded back and added Jackson Carman. The Clemson tackle has some room to grow a bit, but he is athletic and is very talented. After adding Riley Reiff and getting Jonah Williams back and healthy, this line will take a major step forward. After Day 2, they had already addressed two major needs on the offensive and took a high-upside EDGE rusher. Joseph Ossai is another high motor player who is very explosive. Ossai has a high ceiling and should be in the mix from Week 1.

Day 3 started with a great addition of another EDGE player, Cameron Sample. He didn’t jump off the page like some others at this position, but he has a few moves in his arsenal and above-average strength.  Tyler Shelvin should beef up the interior line, and they added Evan McPherson, who was the top kicker prospect in this class.

Cleveland BrownsCleveland Browns: A

1 (26): CB Greg Newsome II, Northwestern
2 (52): LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame
3 (91): WR Anthony Schwartz, Auburn
4 (110): OT James Hudson, Cincinnati
4 (132): DI Tommy Togiai, Ohio State
5 (153): LB Tony Fields II, West Virginia
5 (169): S Richard LeCounte, Georgia
6 (211): RB Demetric Felton, UCLA

Cleveland has really transformed into one of the best-run organizations in the league. Coming into this draft with very few glaring needs, they beefed up the team for now and the future. Greg Newsome II was one of the top corners in this class, and he will bring even more stability to this secondary that added John Johnson and Troy Hill in free agency. Newsome is not limited to playing zone or man and is going to fit right in with Cleveland. There was now news about JOK’s slide, which was heart-related. He was cleared and should have been a first-round pick. Instead, Cleveland scoops him up at 52, one of the biggest steals in the draft. I had him going top-25. He is explosive and versatile. Cleveland is also a good landing spot and will get the most out of him.

The Browns were able to add to the offense in round 3 as they got a burner in Anthony Schwartz. He is a home run threat and fits perfectly into the receiving core now. Cleveland’s offense continues to get better and better. James Hudson is also another tackle that would have gone higher in a different class, yet he falls to Cleveland. Tommy Togiai at pick 132 is where teams will begin to take impactful interior lineman at some point instead of reaching early. This is going to be an immediate bump to the interior line.

Pittsburgh SteelersPittsburgh Steelers: D

1 (24): RB Najee Harris, Alabama
2 (55): TE Pat Freiermuth, Penn State
3 (87): OG Kendrick Green, Illinois
4 (128): OT Dan Moore Jr., Texas A&M
4 (140): LB Buddy Johnson, Texas A&M
5 (156): DI Isaiahh Loudermilk, Wisconsin
6 (216): EDGE Quincy Roche, Miami
7 (245): S Tre Norwood, Oklahoma
7 (254): P Pressley Harvin III, Georgia Tech

Najee Harris is a terrific running back, and I would have loved him in any other round but the first. Pittsburgh’s wheels fell off last season because the offensive line collapsed, and they didn’t have depth at defense to cover injuries. Not much changed after free agency as more defensive players left, and they failed to add any offensive line options. You’d think they’d add an offensive lineman within the first two picks, but that was not the case. There were far bigger needs than adding a running back and tight end within the first two picks. Pat Friermuth was the second-best tight end after Kyle Pitts, but teams with a tight end need passed on him to address other positions. Pittsburgh should have followed. Now I do like Kendrick Green, but this is only a start to rebuilding the offensive line.

Pittsburgh will have to do what they do best and develop defensive talent and hope one of these late-round adds becomes an impact player. Quincy Roche has the potential. He was buried behind a few others in Miami but not because of his talents. Roche is more technically gifted than athletic, and this is a decent value.

Jason Guilbault has been writing and podcasting in the fantasy sports world for over five years. You can find his work at Daily Fantasy Cafe. He is an avid Tottenham fan, and follows the Boston sports teams. When he isn’t diving into stats, he is enjoying the outdoors or down at the local brewery.

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