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

Off-ball linebacker may be the weakest position group in the AFC North. While there are a couple of backers who are towards the league in the division, the depth is lacking across the board. Guys like Roquan Smith, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Logan Wilson, and Patrick Queen will look to anchor the middle of their respective defenses, surrounded by numerous question marks.

The dynamic JOK now has a veteran tackling machine to help him out in Cleveland, giving the Browns a slight edge. Like most of the teams in the division, Cleveland plays only two off-ball linebackers most of the time, so between JOK and Jordan Hicks, the Browns should be able to defend both the pass and the run very effectively.

With another veteran option in Devin Bush and another tackling machine in sixth-round pick Nathaniel Watson, the Browns have what it takes to top this very weak position group.

The Steelers go from last to second this offseason, mainly by stealing a guy from another team in the division. Patrick Queen goes from Baltimore to Pittsburgh to anchor the middle of the Steel Curtain. With veteran Elandon Roberts and highly-regarded 2024 NFL Draft linebacker Payton Wilson, the Steelers have the potential to have a very impressive group this season.

The Ravens, now without Queen, will rely on arguably the best linebacker in the division, Roquan Smith, and 2023 third-rounder Trenton Simpson. Smith gives them a leg up, but their unproven depth gives me enough hesitation to drop them to this point. I really like Logan Wilson for the Cincinnati Bengals, but Wilson and Germaine Pratt both rank outside the top 50 linebackers. While I think they are good players, they are the stars that top this list and struggled a bit in 2023, landing the Bengals fourth.

Special Teams

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

In this category we look at all things special teams: kicker, punter, and the return game. The Browns check all three boxes with Dustin Hopkins and Corey Bojorquez (who had incredible breakout seasons in 2023) as well as free agent signing, Nyheim Hines, who is a great returner although he is coming off of a torn ACL.

The Ravens have a guy who many believe is the greatest kicker of all time in Justin Tucker. He carries the Baltimore special teams squad, and for good reason. Jordan Stout is a decent punter and although they lost a great returner in Devin Duvernay, they have Justice Hill who can return kicks, and signed Deonte Harty from the Buffalo Bills who excelled as a returner in his days in New Orleans.

In Pittsburgh, Chris Boswell has always been a solid, reliable kicker, outshined by some other kickers in the division with bigger legs or more impressive stats. Steelers fans have desperately been wanting a new punter the past few years and got one with Cameron Johnston. The biggest special teams addition for the Steelers is one of the best kick returners of all time, Cordarrelle Patterson, who will give them a boost even with the new kickoff rules.

The Bengals really only have one of the three special teams categories on lock, and that is with kicker Evan McPherson. While he struggled a bit from 50+ yards in 2023, McPherson has the potential to be an all-time great, but punter Brad Robbins and return men Charlie Jones and Trayveon Williams leave a lot to be desired.


1. Cleveland Browns (2.00 avg)
2. Baltimore Ravens (2.07 avg)
3. Cincinnati Bengals (2.85 avg)
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (3.07 avg)

Taking the average of each position, the Cleveland Browns just barely edge the Baltimore Ravens for the top spot. The Bengals and Steelers were close for a distant third, but Cincinnati narrowly took the cake.

Obviously, success stems from a lot more than just an average of position rankings, with the quarterbacks playing a bigger role than anyone else. So, we will see how things play out in 2024, but having a little fun with this exercise finds the Browns atop the AFC North.

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