With the dead of offseason underway, ESPN had PFF rank all 32 NFL roster’s—and now we’re covering it; especially since PFF places three AFC North squads in the bottom-half of the league, while the fourth is in the top 10.
AFC North roster rankings, per PFF
The Steelers are a solid squad, and though Ravens fans strongly despise them, they should still respect this team enough to know they’re a good franchise with quality players. Headlining and anchoring their rankings is the defensive line, consisting of Cameron Heyward (84.9), Javon Hargrave (82.7) and Stephon Tuitt (81.8). These three all rank in the Good/high quality 80-89.9 ranking of PFF’s score system. In all, the Steelers’ starters include 10 players who place within the average ranking and four in the Good/high quality placement, with the fourth being WR JuJu Smith-Schuster.
I got some beef here with PFF for this one. For some reason, they decided to use Nick Boyle’s overall rating of 69, rather than Mark Andrews’ 73.6. While this difference doesn’t push them into the top 10, it feels if they forgot about one of the best players the Ravens possess on offense. If they switch Boyle for Andrews, this gives the Ravens seven starters the average ranking instead of six. The roster follows this with two in the Good/high quality ranking, coming from the running back combination of Mark Ingram II (81.1) and Gus Edwards (80.8). The team isn’t done yet, either, as two land above the 90+ section, titling them our favorite word: ELITE. Both Michael Pierce and Earl Thomas stand above the rest, earning 90.8 and 91.3 grades, respectively. I’m confident fans are counting the days until they see ETIII on the back end, blanketing any deep routes unfortunate enough to cross his path.
The Super Bowl bound champions of the offseason are somehow not above half the league in this ranking, nor above the Ravens.
The reason for such a low ranking has to do with their terrible tackling in 2018.
“The team ended the 2018 campaign ranked dead last with a team tackling grade at 34.7, and they collectively missed a whopping 194 tackles over the course of the regular season — 23 more than the next-closest team.”
This is one of those underrated items which we overlook now, but could realize is far more important during the 2019 season. Teams were breaking off extra yardage against the Browns defense last season with their poor tackling. If the defense figures out how to wrap up, they could stop those extra yards each play and curb the long drives before they get started.
Unsurprisingly, the Bengals place fourth in the roster rankings. If not for their big name players at defensive line and WR A.J. Green, the roster is just adequate.
That being said, the Bengals starters ranked in the 70-79.9 average ranking outnumber the Ravens eight to seven, while also outnumbering the Good/high quality performers four to two. Yes, the Bengals are in a bit of a funk, but that’s only due to an under-performing offensive line, which musters a 58.5 average between the starting five.
If not for the gruesome tackling grade of the Browns’ defense coupled with the love of the Steelers’ defensive line anchoring them in the top 10, I’m alright with these rankings. Baltimore still has something to prove and I’m looking forward to some new faces stepping up in the 2019 season. I am also going to watch Cincinnati a bit closer than usual, because while I think they are lower than the other three franchises in the AFC North on paper, they could be a looming threat nobody is focusing on due to the Browns and Steelers media whirlwind this offseason.