AFC North positional rankings: How the Browns stack up following the NFL Draft

How do the Cleveland Browns stack up in arguably the best division in the NFL in the AFC North?
Myles Garrett, Za'Darius Smith, Cleveland Browns,
Myles Garrett, Za'Darius Smith, Cleveland Browns, / Nick Cammett/GettyImages
4 of 6

Edge Defenders

1. Cleveland Browns
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
3. Cincinnati Bengals
4. Baltimore Ravens

This may be the most impressive position group in the division, and the Cleveland Browns are the best. Steelers fans will go crazy that the duo of T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith are better than Myles Garrett and Za'Darius Smith (or whoever else you throw out there), but the reigning Defensive Player of the Year takes the cake.

With Smith, Ogbo Okoronkwo, Alex Wright, and Isaiah McGuire, I think the Browns have the best player and the best depth on the edge of the defensive line.

Watt and Highsmith, as well as Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard, make it a real conversation for the top spot. Both teams have some promising, young depth pieces, too. Nick Herbig and Kyron Johnson for Pittsburgh and Myles Murphy and Joseph Ossai make it a close battle and really make this edge group in the AFC North one of the best in the league.

Baltimore has some solid players, too, but lacks the top talent to compete. Jadeveon Clowney played very well for them last year, but he has moved on, leaving Kyle Van Noy as the lone veteran edge option as it stands right now. They have guys like Odafeh Oweh and David Ojabo who have great upside and potential, but we will need to see how they play moving forward to see if they can even get the Ravens in the competition.

Interior Defensive Line

1. Baltimore Ravens
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
3. Cleveland Browns
4. Cincinnati Bengals

What Baltimore lacks off the edge, they make up for on the interior of their defensive line. Justin Madubuike had an outstanding 2023 season, earning himself a nice payday. Playing alongside guys like Michael Piece and Travis Jones, Madubuike is free to be the playmaker that he was last season and leads a very impressive interior group for Baltimore.

The Steelers have always hung their hat on the toughness of their defensive line and continue to do so heading into 2024. With savvy veteran Cam Heyward leading the way, former Cleveland Brown Larry Ogunjobi, and promising young Keeanu Benton fronting their defense, they are looking good for defensive coordinator Teryl Austin.

Cleveland has a ton of solid options on the interior of their defensive line now, after having the spot as a pretty glaring weakness in years past. Dalvin Tomlinson is a very solid player, Shelby Harris is a reliable veteran that the team brought back this season, and Quinton Jefferson and Maurice Hurst are also experienced players who bring some versatility to the room.

Combined with second-round rookie Michael Hall from The Ohio State University, 2023 third-round pick Siaki Ika, and 2024 seventh-rounder Juwon Briggs, the Browns will certainly be able to field a well-rounded and reliable defensive tackle room for this season.

For the Bengals, the loss of D.J. Reader looms large. Replacing him with Sheldon Rankins isn't a terrible move by any means, but Reader is on another level. Rankins and B.J. Hill aren't bad options for the Bengals, especially when you add in 2024 second-round pick Kris Jenkins and 2022 third-rounder Zach Carter, but I still think the group lacks the upside to be higher in these rankings.