Division-by-division look at each NFL team's needs before the draft: AFC North

Terez PaylorSenior NFL writer
Yahoo Sports

NFL teams have spent the past few weeks adding talent via free agency, but not all holes can be filled that way. Each team has some pressing needs remaining, and we’re going division-by-division to analyze those needs and perhaps figure out which directions teams are leaning heading into the draft.

AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens

Positions needed: LB, EDGE, WR, G, RB 

Analysis: The Ravens don’t have many holes and their trade of tight end Hayden Hurst for second- and fifth-round picks enabled one of the NFL’s deepest teams to stockpile more assets. They have five draft selections in the first three rounds. They can use their first-round pick on an off-ball linebacker, where they could certainly use a premium talent. And with three edge defenders set to become free agents in 2021, it also wouldn’t be a surprise to see Baltimore invest in a draft-thin position early, all with an eye toward the future. Beyond those two spots, giving Lamar Jackson more to work with is always a good plan. So taking another receiver — perhaps of the slot variety, someone who can be groomed behind Willie Snead IV — would work, and so would taking another power blocking guard with starting potential who could replace future Hall of Famer Marshal Yanda, who retired this offseason.


Cincinnati Bengals

Positions needed: LB, G, QB, TE, OT

Analysis: After a miserable 2-14 season, Cincinnati attacked its offseason with a desire to get better defensively. Their free agent additions included several immediate starters like nose tackle D.J. Reader, corners Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander and safety Vonn Bell. There are still massive holes on the roster, including linebacker, where the Bengals need a difference-maker in the worst way, and interior offensive line. Upgrading at quarterback, of course, would also provide the quickest shot in the arm to a franchise in desperate need of one, and supporting Joe Burrow with help at tight end, offensive tackle and receiver should be mandatory. 


Cleveland Browns

Positions needed: OT, LB, G, WR, DT 

Analysis: The Browns are essentially one offensive tackle away from having a potentially terrific offense. The free agent additions of tight end Austin Hooper and right tackle Jack Conklin are excellent choices for new coach Kevin Stefanski’s play-action offense that features lots of two-tight end sets. Still, there’s a need for increased depth at wide receiver behind Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr., and perhaps a guard who can push Wyatt Teller. Defensively, the Browns fortified their tackle spot with the addition of Andrew Billings, but he’s only on a one-year deal and a difference-maker inside would go a long way to making the front four fearsome. The biggest hole on defense is actually at off-ball linebacker, where Cleveland parted ways with Christian Kirksey and watched Joe Schobert land in Jacksonville. There are some talented young players (Sione Takitaki and Mack Wilson) in the mix, but there is absolutely a need for a bonafide playmaker on the second level.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Positions needed: WR, G, EDGE, LB, DT

Analysis: The Steelers’ championship hopes in 2020 could come down to whether they keep Ben Roethlisberger upright. And while the left guard position — the weakest on the offensive line — was fortified with the free agent signing of Stefen Wisniewski, it would be ideal if the Steelers draft a younger option to take over in 2021 or sooner. Beyond that, the Steelers are an injury away from uncertainty at receiver, and given Roethlisberger’s age and tendency to uncork the deep ball, finding a deep threat in this draft should be a priority. On defense, the free agent departure of Javon Hargrave stings. And while Tyson Alualu was effective last year and Chris Wormley could figure into the mix, it doesn’t inspire confidence that Baltimore traded him within its division. Given the physical nature of the AFC North, finding another interior lineman with upside would be a boon, as would drafting an edge rusher who can provide insurance in case Bud Dupree flees via free agency in 2021. Finding an off-ball linebacker who can provide backup for now and be developed into an eventual starter next to Devin Bush Jr. would be nice as well.

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