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NFL draft grades, AFC North: Steelers aid new quarterback duo; Ravens add key starters, depth

Why provide instant grades on the selections of prospects who have yet to take an NFL snap? Well, you're reading this, aren't you? Considering the makeup of every roster and the factors surrounding each pick, Gennaro Filice and Nick Shook attempt a division-by-division assessment of the 2024 NFL Draft. Keep in mind that these grades are based on draft hauls alone -- picks traded for veteran players were not taken into account. Below is Nick's AFC North report card.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Draft picks: 7

Round 1: Troy Fautanu, OT, Washington (No. 20 overall)

Round 2: Zach Frazier, C, West Virginia (51)

Round 3: Roman Wilson, WR, Michigan (84) | Payton Wilson, LB, N.C. State (98)

Round 4: Mason McCormick, OG, South Dakota State (119)

Round 6: Logan Lee, DE, Iowa (178) | Ryan Watts, DB, Texas (195)

Omar Khan has absolutely crushed this offseason, restocking the quarterback position with two quality options for both the short- and long-term, then unabashedly investing in their protectors in the draft. Pittsburgh had seven picks in the 2024 draft and spent three on offensive linemen, demonstrating a clear emphasis on the trenches (while also catering to my soft spot). Khan began by snagging a top tackle in Fautanu, a pick that probably wouldn’t be possible in drafts that didn’t include six selections of quarterbacks in the first 12 picks. Pittsburgh capitalized by taking Fautanu, adding him to a line that includes last year’s top pick, Georgia tackle Broderick Jones, giving the Steelers an instant competitor for Dan Moore, and as I expect, two bookend tackles for years to come. Khan wasn’t done there, though, spending his next pick on a center and answering another lingering question following the departure of Mason Cole. He even added depth behind veteran guards James Daniels and Isaac Seumalo when he selected McCormick, hitting every checkmark on the offensive line list. The best pick of this whole class might end up being Wilson, a dynamo of a receiver who terrorized defenses while at Michigan. He should complement big-play artist George Pickens quite well, giving Russell Wilson and/or Justin Fields multiple options, especially after the team parted ways with Dionate Johnson. Linebacker Payton Wilson completes Khan’s transformation of Pittsburgh’s defensive second level, and if he can overcome medical concerns, he owns the speed necessary to play sideline-to-sideline on early downs and rocket through the line as a third-down blitzer. And finally, Cam Heyward is going to retire eventually, so it was worth taking a flier on Lee. Well done, Omar.

Cincinnati Bengals
Draft picks: 10

Round 1: Amarius Mims, OT, Georgia (No. 18 overall)

Round 2: Kris Jenkins, DT, Michigan (49)

Round 3: Jermaine Burton, WR, Alabama (80) | McKinnley Jackson, NT, Texas A&M (97)

Round 4: Erick All, TE, Iowa (115)

Round 5: Josh Newton, DB, TCU (149)

Round 6: Tanner McLachlan, TE, Arizona (194) | Cedric Johnson, DE, Mississippi (214)

Round 7: Daijahn Anthony (224), DB, Mississippi | Matt Lee, C, Miami (237)

Realistically, the Bengals carried just one clear need into the draft: receiver. They deserve credit for not forcing the issue, though, instead addressing a future – and arguably, more important – hole along the offensive line by selecting Mims, who serves two purposes. Cincinnati can afford him time to grow before asking Mims to handle full-time duties, and as the Bengals have learned too often in recent years, depth is essential along the offensive line. They got both by choosing Mims and waiting to select a receiver. In between, the Bengals added a quality defensive tackle in Jenkins, who will join a defensive front that will require a committee approach to replace D.J. Reader. Two for two. And as it pertains to receiver, the Bengals took a slot man in Burton, who should fit in perfectly as a complement to both Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase. I expect Burton to pop up on the highlight reel as a frequent target on explosive plays, much like he did at Alabama. From there, the Bengals shifted their approach toward depth, spending a healthy serving of picks to add players with promise at tight end – fittingly, the tight end-friendly Bengals selected two at the position, including a low-risk addition of a Daniel Jeremiah favorite at the position in McLachlan – defensive tackle, edge rusher, corner, safety and naturally, center. While this class might lack splash picks, it’s a well-rounded group that should serve the Bengals well both in 2024 and beyond.

Baltimore Ravens
Draft picks: 9

Round 1: Nate Wiggins, DB, Clemson (No. 30 overall)

Round 2: Roger Rosengarten, OT, Washington (62)

Round 3: Adisa Isaac, LB, Penn State (93)

Round 4: Devontez Walker, WR, North Carolina (113) | T.J. Tampa, DB, Iowa State (130)

Round 5: Rasheen Ali, RB, Marshall (165)

Round 6: Devin Leary, QB, Kentucky (218)

Round 7: Nick Samac, C, Michigan State (228) | Sanoussi Kane, DB, Purdue (250)

The Ravens needed a starting right tackle and a starting cornerback opposite Marlon Humphrey. They found both, at least on paper. Rosengarten should slot in on the right side and do a decent or better job from the start, and Wiggins has the speed to run with anyone, even if his thin frame means he might lose the physical battle. Wiggins left Clemson as arguably the best corner in the class because of his speed and blend of talent and traits, and even after he slid a bit in the first round, he’s a great get for a Ravens defense that knows it needs more production out of a corner not named Humphrey. Isaac fits into the Ravens’ traditional mold of taking a chance on a player with raw talent and maximizing it while he’s under a rookie deal (and inevitably signs his second deal elsewhere). He should rotate in with Kyle Van Noy to make for a constant edge-rushing threat opposite Odafe Oweh. I love the Walker selection, as the Ravens bought relatively low on a receiver who would’ve been on more radars had the NCAA not gotten in the way of his ability to participate in his first and only season at North Carolina. GM Eric DeCosta didn’t surprise many by adding a couple of defensive backs on Day 3, and after seeing two running backs leave in the offseason, the pickup of Ali adds another competitor to the depth chart. Leary, meanwhile, fits the traditional role of a developmental arm slotted behind an entrenched starter (Lamar Jackson) and veteran backup (Josh Johnson), a la the 1990s Green Bay Packers. Overall, it was a solid draft headlined by a couple of picks who will be expected to produce immediately, and included some sneaky depth that could prove important in the fall.

Cleveland Browns
Draft picks: 6

Round 2: Michael Hall Jr., DT, Ohio State (No. 54 overall)

Round 3: Zak Zinter, OG, Michigan (85)

Round 5: Jamari Thrash, WR, Louisville (156)

Round 6: Nathaniel Watson, LB, Mississippi State (206)

Round 7: Myles Harden, DB, South Dakota (227) | Jowon Briggs, DT, Cincinnati (243)

As the last team to make their first selection in the 2024 draft, the Browns did surprisingly well in a fashion similar to their in-state rivals. Their picks won’t register on the Richter Scale but filled some depth needs, adding a promising talent in Thrash (and answering fans’ cries for a new toy) to slot in behind Amari Cooper, Elijah Moore and Jerry Jeudy, while also snagging a future starter at guard in Zinter, who will be given the chance to learn behind Cleveland’s fantastic tandem of Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller until Bitonio decides to call it a career. On the defensive side, the Browns plugged holes along the defensive interior with veterans in free agency and will enter 2024 following the same plan while hoping Hall becomes a long-term starter whose potential – which served more as a tease than a guarantee at Ohio State – was just a sign of future production. From there, Cleveland focused on depth with its remaining three picks, choosing the athletic Watson to slide in behind Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and bolstering the secondary and defensive line with Harden and Briggs. General manager Andrew Berry didn’t have any gaping holes to address in this draft – a luxury – and acted accordingly, even with a lack of draft capital.

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