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Pre-draft AFC North position rankings: Offense

Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

The AFC North has had an active offseason thus far. Free agency provided the Ravens, Steelers, Browns and Bengals with opportunities to acquire players and improve their rosters. There are likely additional acquisitions coming down the pipeline, but the primary focus is on the draft — which is now just days away.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at how each team’s position groups stack up compared to one another at this juncture — beginning with the offensive units.


Quarterback —

1) Baltimore Ravens

Lamar Jackson, Trace McSorley, Tyler Huntley

2) Cleveland Browns

Baker Mayfield, Case Keenum, Kyle Lauletta

3) Pittsburgh Steelers

Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins Jr., Joshua Dobbs

4) Cincinnati Bengals

Joe Burrow, Brandon Allen, Kyle Shurmur

Lamar Jackson is the only MVP in the division and is the most dynamic quarterback. Baker Mayfield’s passing numbers were comparable to Jackson’s in 2020, but he has the benefit of superior weaponry and offensive line play.

In my opinion, Mayfield should rank ahead of Ben Roethlisberger as this juncture, though. Roethlisberger finished the 2020 campaign with above-average statistics but slowed down as the season progressed. He’s the most athletically-compromised starter in the division.

Joe Burrow had a promising rookie season for the Bengals but is a bit of a wildcard after suffering a serious knee injury in Week 11.


Running Back —

1) Cleveland Browns

Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, D’Ernest Johnson

2) Baltimore Ravens

J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill, Pat Ricard (FB)

3) Cincinnati Bengals

Joe Mixon, Samaje Perine, Trayveon Williams

4) Pittsburgh Steelers

Benny Snell Jr., Jaylen Samuels, Anthony McFarland, Kalen Ballage

The Ravens have the best rushing attack in the NFL but the Browns have the best individual talents at the running back position. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt is as formidable of a duo as they come in the backfield, which gives the Browns the edge in these rankings.

Baltimore lost Mark Ingram in free agency but is well-equipped with a strong duo of their own in J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards. Cincinatti’s Joe Mixon may be a better talent than these two, but he’s had injury struggles the Bengals are lacking some depth after losing Giovani Bernard. The Ravens also have the benefit of one of the league’s top fullbacks in Pat Ricard.

Pittsburgh will enter the draft looking to upgrade at the position, possibly even in the first round. James Conner signed with the Cardinals in free agency, leaving the Steelers with a core of Benny Snell Jr., Jaylen Samuels, and Anthony McFarland.


Wide Receiver —

1) Cleveland Browns

Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones

2) Pittsburgh Steelers

JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, James Washington

3) Cincinnati Bengals

Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, Auden Tate, Mike Thomas

4) Baltimore Ravens

Marquise Brown, Sammy Watkins, Devin Duvernay, Miles Boykin

The Browns have the most talented wideout in the division in Odell Beckham Jr. While he’s yet to fully click in Cleveland, the combination of him, Jarvis Landry and other complimentary options makes for a strong unit. They re-signed Rashard Higgins in free agency to return as the No. 3 wide receiver.

Pittsburgh is also keeping their core intact after re-signing JuJu Smith-Schuster. The Steelers are deep at the position between him, Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson and James Washington — an impressive quadrant.

A.J. Green left Cincinnati for Arizona in free agency and the Bengals have yet to replace him, meaning they’ll likely target the position in the draft. Even so, Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins are solidified starting wideouts.

The Ravens are also certain to draft a receiver or two, also. The acquisition of Sammy Watkins gives them a veteran, starting-caliber wideout opposite Marquise Brown. The rest of the receiver core, though, is young and unproven.


Tight End —

1) Baltimore Ravens

Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, Josh Oliver, Eric Tomlinson

2) Cleveland Browns

Austin Hooper, Harrison Bryant, David Njoku

3) Pittsburgh Steelers

Eric Ebron, Zach Gentry, Charles Clifford Jones

4) Cincinnati Bengals

Drew Sample, C.J. Uzomah, Mason Schreck, Thaddeus Moss

Mark Andrews is the best tight end in the division and a top-tier pass catcher at the position in the NFL. A return to health from Nick Boyle, an elite blocker, is good enough to keep the Ravens atop the pecking order.

On paper, the Browns’ trio of Austin Hooper, David Njoku and Harrison Bryant would be good enough for No. 1 in a number of divisions. Hooper was just okay last season after signing a huge contract, though, and Njoku has played sparling since 2018 due to injuries.

The Steelers are set to return Eric Ebron as their starter next season. His first year in Pittsburgh was productive but he struggled with dropped passes. They’re likely to add another piece at the position after Vance Macdonald retired this offseason.

After C.J. Uzomah went down last season, Drew Sample stepped into a larger role and showed some flashes. They’ll both be back in the fold for Cincinnati in 2021, but it’s an uninspiring group overall. Were the Bengals to draft Florida’s Kyle Pitts with the No. 5 in the draft, though, that would certainly change things.


Offensive Line —

1) Cleveland Browns

Jedrick Wills Jr., Joel Bitonio, JC Tretter, Wyatt Teller, Jack Conklin

2) Baltimore Ravens

Ronnie Stanley, Kevin Zeitler, Bradley Bozeman, Ben Powers, Orlando Brown Jr.

3) Pittsburgh Steelers

Rashaad Coward, Kevin Dotson, B.J. Finney, David DeCastro, Chukwuma Okafor

4) Cincinnati Bengals

Jonah Williams, Michael Jordan, Billy Brice, Xavier Su’a-Filo, Riley Reiff

The Browns are set to return all five starters after finishing with the No. 1 graded offensive line in 2020. They’re solid across the board and a sophomore jump from Jedrick Wills Jr. could make this group even more prolific.

Baltimore signed Kevin Zeitler in free agency, which will provide a big boost to the interior offensive line next to Bradley Bozeman. If Ronnie Stanley is 100%, the Ravens should have one of the better lines in the NFL. They could add another starter in the draft, too. The wildcard is whether or not Orlando Brown Jr. is in the fold next season or not.

The Steelers have long had a high-level five-man front, in large part due to consistency in personnel. However, there’s been some moving pieces this offseason and they may be fielding multiple different starters next season. They were also one of the worst run-blocking teams in the NFL in 2020.

Cincinnati is clear-cut at the basement of the division with this position group. Jonah Williams has promise and the free agent addition of Riley Reiff should be an upgrade at right tackle. As a whole, however, they have a long way to go. This is another potential area they could target with the No. 5 pick in the draft.


Agree with these rankings? Disagree? Chime in with your own thoughts below!