The Cleveland Browns hit a home run in Round 1 but they’re not the only AFC North team that’s happy with how the 2020 NFL Draft has started out
The Cleveland Browns weren’t the only team in their division to kick off the 2020 NFL Draft by making their fans happy as three teams AFC North are thrilled after Round 1, while the fourth is sitting on the sidelines congratulating themselves for having traded away their first-round draft pick last year.
The Bengals, of course, scored a major coup with the selection of All-Universe quarterback Joe Burrow. Cincinnati earned this excellent draft position this year by screwing up on the field last year, posting a 2-14 record with equal ineptitude on offense and defense.
Joe Burrow is an outstanding talent, and the Bengals have added major free agents on defense. Defensive tackle D. J. Reader comes to the ‘Nati from Houston, cornerback, Trae Waynes from Minnesota, safety Vonn Bell from New Orleans.
Guard Xavier Su’a-Filo is the only major offensive player added, however. The Bengals are using the Chris Palmer technique of bringing on a rookie quarterback without much help, and expecting him to learn by getting sacked fifty times a year.
In this fan’s opinion, that’s a classic mistake when teams get a new quarterback and pick that time to upgrade the defense. Quarterback was not necessarily a disaster area with underrated Andy Dalton at the controls, anyway. Burrow is headed for stardom, but in 2020, with a possibly shortened pre-season, this may not be the greatest time for a rookie to take the controls for a weak offense.
The team you do not hear about is the Baltimore Ravens, who have a late draft position, but as usual, are the most dangerous. Every year the rest of the NFL screws up and lets a star player slide to them. This year, they add LSU Tigers linebacker Patrick Queen to an already formidable defense which led the NFL in fewest points allowed with 282.
On day two, the Ravens have four draft picks, two in Round 2 and two in Round 3. Then they get four more on day three, making a total of nine picks for this year’s draft, including two compensatory draft picks. Considering that their 12-4 record earned them the late draft position, they are in excellent position to re-stock the team. If you figure that players drafted in Rounds 1-3 normally start their first year, the Ravens figure to add at least five starters this year. The defense needs to replace nose tackle Michael Pierce, who moves north to Minnesota.
As for the Steelers, you will recall that they sent their first-round pick to Miami last year in exchange for All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who was unhappy with the scheme in Miami. The Steelers made a good decision, however, as Fitzpatrick turned his game around completely when he donned the Black and Gold.
Still, the lack of a first-round pick should concern them, since they didn’t pick up an impact player on defense, and they lost defensive tackle Javon Hargrave to the Eagles, and linebacker Tyler Matakevich to the Bills. They will have to find replacements from only six picks this year, including a third-round compensatory pick which they earned when Le’Veon Bell signed a deal with the New York Jets. It looks like a lean year from the draft.
The Steelers’ problem was that Big Ben was injured and neither Devlin Hodges nor Mason Rudolph put up anything remotely resembling Roethlisbergerian numbers last year. This year Big Ben will attempt a comeback at age 38.
To this fan, it looks like the Browns and Ravens are looking good after Round 1. Cleveland plugged a bad hole at left tackle with a player that most scouts raved about this year in Jedrick Wills. Let’s give them an “A” for Round 1.
The Ravens are going to add several starting players to a stocked team, though they did not have high draft position in Round 1. They have a starting linebacker now, and they will add other starters today and tomorrow, so they also earn an “A.”
The Bengals add a superstar in Joe Burrow, but so far have shown little interest in getting any help for him. They gave up 48 sacks last year and figure to do something similar for Burrow this year to toughen him up. If he survives, he will be vastly improved three years from now, but whether a rookie quarterback turns around an ineffective offense by himself is questionable.
At least, we have seen that experiment a few times in Cleveland and it doesn’t seem to work very well. Anyway, here’s hoping the Bengals continue their plan to build the defense, in order to properly welcome Joe Burrow to the NFL. They get a “D” for trying to kill their young superstar quarterback, but if they draft about three offensive linemen, we might reconsider that grade after the weekend is over.
As for the Steelers, their draft process is also significantly weakened by trades designed to get them to the playoffs in 2019. It did not work. Although Minkah Fitzpatrick was definitely worth it, they are unlikely to improve themselves through the draft in 2020, so let’s give them a D as well.