The 2021 NFL draft is now a matter of weeks away and with the dust settling on free agency we can now have a look at how the AFC North boards might look. Starting with…
The Ravens are currently thanking their lucky stars for the two compensatory picks they have been awarded in the 2021 Draft. Even with these they only have seven, and they have a lot of roster holes to fill!
They really need to up their pass rush thanks to them losing Yannick Ngakoue (who they gave up a 3rd round pick for). They are also a bit thin on the OL and really need to get Lamar Jackson a Wide Receiver with a good catch radius.
So What Will They Do
Well if we knew that we would be GM’s earning a fortune however we do expect them to go Edge in round one and with the likely run on QBs and offensive players early the likes of Gregory Rousseau or Jaelan Phillips are likely to be available. They can then see what the WR board looks like in round Two.
After years in the doldrums things suddenly took a turn for the better in Cleveland, as their “Money Ball” draft strategy finally paid off. They have done well in free agency adding safety John Johnson from the Rams, look set at QB and have nine draft picks, including two thirds & two fourths. Thus they are well placed to move up from 26 if they so choose.
So What Could They Do In The 2021 NFL Draft?
Well despite their good 2020 season, they are still a bit off being genuine Super Bowl contenders. Thus they could use an upgrade in multiple positions (QB & RB excepted). Although Edge would seem like the obvious choice we think they could do with adding a versatile Linebacker like Penn State’s Micah Parsons. That might need a small trade up but overall they look well placed to strengthen their defense and should come out of the draft as favourites for the division. Later they can add a bit of depth at WR and Corner.
The Bengals biggest loss in Free Agency was at the WR spot with AJ Green & John Ross both departing. Add losing TE Cethan Carter and suddenly Joe Burrow looks somewhat devoid of weapons going into the 2021 season. The good news for him anyway is that they are stacked at Running Back so if all else fails he can at least hand the ball off. They are also a bit light on the OL so we expect at least one of these areas to be addressed with their no 5 pick.
2021 NFL Draft Thoughts
They are fortunate in that the teams ahead of them all have QB on their minds, meaning they effectively have their pick outside of this position which is not one of need. So who is in line for their 1st pick? Well with 8 picks including 5, 37 & 69, they are well placed to sort out their three main needs.
We expect them to play it safe and take OT Penei Sewell, out of Oregon with their first pick. In our opinion, he is the best player in the draft. Failing this one of the top Wide Receivers or TE Kyle Pitts would make sense. In the later rounds, they will probably add a bit more OL depth and possibly a bit of pass rush.
Pittsburgh plans to roll with Ben Roethlisberger at QB in 2021 so their 2021 NFL draft is likely going to revolve around plugging their free agency losses. There are some big holes to fill here with Bud Dupree likely to be the hardest to replace.
2021 NFL Draft Options
The good news is they have 8 picks and 4 of these are in the top 140, so they can afford to trade up a little if necessary to get the right man. They would probably love to see Tulsa’s Zaven Collins fall to them at 24, however, we think he will be long gone by then. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah out of Notre Dame is a possibility here though and his style would suit them.
Assuming both are gone they will probably go Corner and there are probably 5-6 who are worthy of a first-round pick. We think Eric Stokes will still be on the board at 24 and he could be the pick if they go DB.
Overall we think the AFC North could be sending 3 teams to the postseason in 2021 regardless of how the draft plays out and it is shaping up to be a good division to watch.