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2022 NFL Draft Wish List: AFC North

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With the NFL Draft right around the corner, FTN is taking a moment to look at each division one at a time. We’re going team-by-team to identify the biggest needs and moves the franchises should be looking at before or during the draft, which starts April 28.

 

The AFC North is suddenly one of the two best divisions in all of football. We just watched the upstart Cincinnati Bengals make a Super Bowl run last season, but it is not going to be a cakewalk for this team to make the playoffs in 2022, let alone get back to the championship. The Baltimore Ravens are back to full strength, the Cleveland Browns have made some major changes to their roster and the Pittsburgh Steelers still boast one of the best defenses in the league.

Follow along with our whole 2022 NFL Draft Wish List series:

2022 NFL Draft Wish List: AFC North

Below we’ll take a quick look at each team, their pick haul, and their key needs to address in the draft.

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • First pick: First round, 20th overall
  • Total first-rounders: 1
  • Total draft picks: 7

It is no secret that Mike Tomlin and the Steelers are infatuated with Liberty quarterback Malik Willis. However, it’s also likely the only way they will be able to add him to the roster is to trade up, which is surely in the range of outcomes. We know Pittsburgh is likely to be looking at a quarterback at some point in this draft, whether it is via a trade-up, 20th overall or in the later rounds. Mitchell Trubisky is likely to be their bridge quarterback this season, but this passing game needs some sort of downfield potential. Over the last two seasons, Ben Roethlisberger has ranked 32nd and 28th in intended air yards per pass attempt (6.7, 6.9). And during that same span, Diontae Johnson has sported the 20th- and 12th-lowest aDOTs among all receivers with at least 50 targets.

If the Steelers don’t grab a quarterback in the first round, offensive tackle seems like the likely outcome. Bernhard Raimann out of Central Michigan makes plenty of sense. He could slide in and start at left tackle Day 1, for the Steelers and if he hits, he’d be able to protect whoever the future quarterback is for years. Despite only playing the position for two years, Raimann is a first-round talent. Also, keep an eye on Trevor Penning out of Northern Iowa, who was a tremendous run-blocker. He is a physical player who can create running lanes for Najee Harris, allowing him to get to the second level. And for a team that ranked 31st in yards before contact per attempt in 2021 (1.0), Harris would welcome this addition with open arms.

Cleveland Browns

  • First pick: Second round, 44th overall
  • Total first-rounders: 0
  • Total draft picks: 7

After the Deshaun Watson trade, Cleveland will be without a first-round pick this year … and the next two. That means, barring another trade, the Browns will make their first selection at 44th overall, and there are two glaring needs for this team. For starters, the Amari Cooper deal looks fantastic right now, but Cleveland still needs more help wide receiver. Outside of Cooper, the depth chart isn’t the strongest, so if Christian Watson, Skyy Moore or Jahan Dotson are on the board in the second round, look for the Browns to run to the podium.

Watson helped his pre-draft process in a massive way by running a 4.36 40-yard dash at 6-foot-4, 208 pounds. He has a ton of upside but still has some things to work on, including drops. Watson posted a career 13.3% drop rate but working with the sure-handed Cooper would certainly help. Dotson, meanwhile, has tremendous hands but is only 5-11, 180. He can play both outside and in the slot, just like Moore, who presents tremendous after-the-catch upside. All three receivers would make sense for the Browns and would be very intriguing fantasy wideouts in year one. Outside of receiver, Cleveland should also be targeting an interior defensive lineman. Travis Jones from Connecticut makes a lot of sense.

 

Baltimore Ravens

  • First pick: First round, 14th overall
  • Total first-rounders: 1
  • Total draft picks: 9

2021 was a bit of a lost season in Baltimore as the Ravens dealt with so many injuries. However, this is honestly my pick to win the division. They will be getting back both J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards on the offensive side of the ball. And on the defensive end? Don’t get me started. This team lost Marcus Peters before the season started, while Marlon Humphrey and the rest of the secondary missed plenty of time. They also added safety Marcus Williams in the offseason and brought back Calais Campbell. Before free agency, you could make the argument that interior defensive line was a position to address but at the moment, the Ravens have Campbell and Michael Pierce at defensive tackle.

Of course, they could still look to get younger at the position and at 14th overall, they could also look to Jordan Davis or Devonte Wyatt and simply make that position even better. Meanwhile, although Peters and Humphrey are healthy, Peters is still coming off a serious injury and will be 30 years old. Baltimore also lost Anthony Averett and Tavon Young in the offseason, so don’t be surprised if they give LSU cornerback Derek Stingley a call Thursday. 

Cincinnati Bengals

  • First pick: First round, 31st overall
  • Total first-rounders: 1
  • Total draft picks: 8

Coming off a magical season that fell just shy of a Super Bowl championthsip, the Bengals are already making the right moves. When you have a franchise quarterback in Joe Burrow, you need to do everything you can to protect him. And that is exactly what the Bengals have done this offseason, adding La’el Collins, Alex Cappa and Ted Karras, revamping the right side of the offensive line that was awful last year. However, I still think this team needs to keep building, especially because Karras can easily move over to guard, which would allow the Bengals to draft a center at 31.

If Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum can make it to the end of the first round, Cincinnati will be ecstatic. He is insanely athletic and has drawn comparisons to Hall of Fame center Jason Kelce. In the later rounds, addressing the secondary definitely makes sense for this team. Chidobe Awuzie had a stellar first season in Cincinnati last year, but they could use more help after him. 

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