2022 AFC North Team Needs and Prospect Fits

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With free agency in the books, all eyes are now on the 2022 NFL Draft. Having previewed every team as soon as the offseason ended, I have a working knowledge of all of the rosters in the NFL. What I’m missing is a deep understanding of every prospect available via the draft. That’s where Tyler Forness comes in. He covers college football for NBC and will be filling in the best fits for each team given their needs and the picks they hold. I’ll add some context beyond the general position of need to clarify differences within a broad category (i.e., if a team needs a run-stuffing nose tackle or a 4-3 tackle with pass-rush chops). Tyler will find the best fits for each team while also giving us some notes on the players.

Cleveland Browns

Wide Receiver

Amari Cooper is coming off his worst year since 2017, and the Browns are clearly looking to pass more in 2022. Adding a replacement for Jarvis Landry’s role as the team’s primary slot receiver will be a priority for Cleveland.

2.44 Options: Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore, Penn State’s Jahan Dotson, Georgia’s George Pickens

3.78 Options: Memphis’ Calvin Austin III, Cincinnati’s Alec Pierce, Kentucky’s Wan’Dale Robinson

3.99 Options: Nevada’s Romeo Doubs, South Alabama’s Jalen Tolbert, Boise State’s Khalil Shakir

Tyler's Notes: After acquiring both Deshaun Watson and Amari Cooper, the Browns are in a much better spot offensively. They should continue building on that by selecting a field-stretcher like Pierce.

Defensive End

Jadeveon Clowney was not re-signed by Cleveland. While defenses were keying in on Myles Garrett, Clowney was busy posting nine sacks. This defense is at its best when someone is taking advantage of Garrett drawing all of the attention.

​​​​​​2.44 Options: Penn State’s Arnold Ebiketie, USC’s Drake Jackson

3.78 Options: Oklahoma’s Nik Bonitto, San Diego State’s Cameron Thomas

3.99 Options: Kentucky’s Josh Paschal, Cincinnati’s Myjai Sanders

Tyler's Notes: The Browns need to have a pass-rushing presence opposite of Garrett. The value of Sanders in the third round would be ideal for a team without a first-round pick.

Defensive Tackle

The Browns did not return either of their starting defensive tackles from last year. Though they don’t need a fridge for either one of their 4-3’s DT slots, adding at least one run-stuffer makes sense for a defense that finished 28th in rush attempt EPA in 2021.

2.44 Options: Oklahoma’s Perrion Winfrey, Texas A&M’s DeMarvin Leal, Houston’s Logan Hall

3.78 Options: Alabama’s Phidarian Mathis

3.99 Options: Florida’s Zachary Carter, Tennessee’s Matthew Butler

Tyler's Notes: The Browns have needed to address this position since Larry Ogunjobi left in free agency after 2020. Adding Winfrey gives them a potentially dominant player on the interior.

Baltimore Ravens

Cornerback

The Ravens’ roster isn’t as bereft of cornerback talent as it looked last year. Injuries took a toll on the team, but they still need to replace Tavon Young in the slot and add injury insurance for their boundary corners. They will look to find a starting slot corner who can move outside if necessary.

​​​​​​1.14 Options: LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr, Washington’s Trent McDuffie, Florida’s Kaiir Elam

2.45 Options: Washington’s Kyler Gordon, Auburn’s Roger McCreary

3.76 Options: Mississippi State’s Martin Emerson, Alabama’s Josh Jobe

Tyler's Notes: The Ravens love playing man coverage and manufacturing pressure in unique ways. Gordon has the ability to thrive in the slot plus some outside versatility.

Inside Linebacker

Patrick Queen, one of Baltimore's two starting interior linebackers, excels as a pass-rusher and that’s about it. It’s not an ideal skill for a middle linebacker, so the Ravens have to pair him with a traditional MIKE linebacker who can cover and stop the run.

​​​​​​1.14 Options: Utah’s Devin Lloyd, Georgia’s Nakobe Dean

2.45 Options: Georgia’s Quay Walker, Alabama’s Christian Harris

3.76 Options: Wisconsin’s Leo Chenal, Penn State’s Brandon Smith

Tyler's Notes: With the Ravens needing pass coverage from their linebackers, they are in luck on day two. Smith provides the size, athleticism, and length you want from a coverage linebacker.

Defensive End

Justin Madubuike, a former third-round pick, didn’t do much in his 11 starts last year, and Derek Wolfe missed the entire season because of a hip injury. Baltimore could add some depth with someone who is comfortable playing three and five-tech.

​​​​​1.14 Options: Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson, Purdue’s George Karlaftis

2.45 Options: Penn State’s Arnold Ebiketie, USC’s Drake Jackson

3.76 Options: Oklahoma’s Nik Bonitto, San Diego State’s Cameron Thomas

Tyler's Notes: Generating a pass rush will be crucial for the Ravens next season. Getting Johnson is an ideal scenario, as he can win from nearly every alignment.

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Pittsburgh Steelers

Cornerback

The Steelers have made the Pro Day rounds to multiple schools with top corners available and both of their starting outside corners were ranked outside of the top 60 by Pro Football Focus last year. Pittsburgh has also invested one pick, a 2019 third-round pick, at cornerback over the past four drafts.

​​​​​​1.20 Options: Florida’s Kaiir Elam, Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr, Washington’s Trent McDuffie

2.52 Options: Auburn’s Roger McCreary, Washington’s Kyler Gordon, UTSA’s Tariq Woolen

3.84 Options: Mississippi State’s Martin Emerson, Alabama’s Josh Jobe

Tyler's Notes: The Steelers need to add depth to the cornerback room with a high-upside starter. Emerson provides that and has the ability to play right away.

Offensive Tackle

Pittsburgh quickly got to work retooling their offensive line this offseason, but the job isn’t done yet. Both of their starting tackles from 2021 are returning, but neither played well enough to prevent Pittsburgh from adding an immediate replacement or developmental player in the draft.

​​​​​1.20 Options: Tulsa’s Tyler Smith, Central Michigan’s Bernhard Raimann, Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning

2.52 Options: Minnesota’s Daniel Faalele, Ohio State’s Nicholas Petit-Frere

3.84 Options: Washington State’s Abraham Lucas, Louisiana-Lafayette’s Max Mitchell

Tyler's Notes: The Steelers need to figure out a way to improve the offensive line long-term. Petit-Frere is an athletic developmental tackle that can play on the inside if needed.

Quarterback

Mitchell Trubisky is a placeholder and nothing more even if his successor isn’t added until the 2023 NFL Draft. Pittsburgh landing a quarterback simply comes down to their desire to trade up for Malik Willis versus their patience with waiting for a prospect to fall to them.

​​​​​1.20 Options: Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder, Ole Miss’ Matt Corral

2.52 Options: North Carolina’s Sam Howell, Nevada’s Carson Strong

3.84 Options: Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe

Tyler's Notes: With Trubisky in the fold, the Steelers don’t need to force anything. Getting Corral at 20 with his rocket arm and high upside is worth the risk.

Cincinnati Bengals

Cornerback

The Bengals got Chidobe Awuzie for a bargain in free agency last year, but Eli Apple, who is most famous for giving up two touchdowns in the Super Bowl and then getting roasted on Twitter, isn’t the team’s answer opposite him. Awuzie can hold his own against top receivers and Mike Hilton is capable in the slot, so Cincinnati has the freedom to take an outside corner of any build.

​​​​​1.31 Options: Florida’s Kaiir Elam, Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr

2.63 Options: UTSA’s Tariq Woolen, Mississippi State’s Martin Emerson

3.95 Options: Alabama’s Josh Jobe, Alabama’s Jalyn Armour-Davis

Tyler's Notes: Adding a cornerback should be a top priority, especially a bigger-bodied guy. Woolen gives them a high-upside piece with elite size for the position.

Tight End

Hayden Hurst is unlikely to supplant the production of C.J. Uzomah, and even Uzomah wasn’t a special tight end. Although the Bengals boast a three-receiver set that can go toe-to-toe with anyone, wouldn’t it be fun to see them with a high-end tight end as well?

1.31 Options: N/A

2.63 Options: Colorado State’s Trey McBride, UCLA’s Greg Dulcich, Virginia’s Jelani Woods

3.95 Options: Ohio State’s Jeremy Ruckert, Wisconsin’s Jake Ferguson

Tyler's Notes: Replacing Uzomah with Hurst and a rookie should be an easy task. Ruckert gives you a little bit of everything with upside as a receiver.

Inside Linebacker

The Bengals could use replacements at both SAM and WILL linebacker, but adding a weakside linebacker makes the most sense. This allows them to play Logan Wilson at MIKE while sending Germaine Pratt up to attack running lanes.

1.31 Options: Georgia’s Nakobe Dean, Utah’s Devin Lloyd

2.63 Options: Wyoming’s Chad Muma, Wisconsin’s Leo Chenal

3.95 Options: Georgia’s Channing Tindall, Montana State’s Troy Andersen

Tyler's Notes: With the investments that the Bengals have made with their linebacking core, adding one with the versatility to rush the passer and play coverage is ideal. Dean provides that and then some for the Bengals.