My AFC North Roster Grades
Updated: Aug 24
Scoring System Summary - A+ = 10 D+ = 1 , All scores are added up then the average is found giving the score out of 10.
Overall Grade – B+ 7.4/10
Quarterback - A
- Lamar Jackson is one of the league’s best quarterbacks and was named MVP in 2019. Jackson’s unique skill as a runner partnered with his passing ability makes him a nightmare for defenses. Despite his regular season success which has led him to a 19-3 record over the past 2 seasons it’s the postseason where Lamar needs to develop and elevate his game.
Running Backs - B
- The Ravens running back room is stacked, they go four deep. Ingram, Dobbins, Edwards and Hill. Ingram proved again in 2019 that he is very capable of carrying the load, but I suspect his snaps will begin to decrease as Dobbins becomes more acquainted with the offensive system.
Wide Receivers – C+
- Baltimore’s front office have done a good job of finding wide receivers that fit their system perfectly, however, in comparison to other receiver rooms they lack talent. While Marquise Brown has game changing speed that alone does not make a good receiver or receiving core.
Tight Ends – A-
- Losing Hayden Hurst might not have a huge effect on the Ravens offense as a whole, but the tight end room will definitely take a hit, they no longer have the 3 good tight ends they had in 2019 which allowed their 3 tight end sets to be so successful.
Offensive Line - A
- The Ravens offensive line is a huge part of their success in both the run and passing game. Ronnie Stanley made the jump in 2019 that warranted his 6th overall selection in the 2016 draft, Stanley cemented himself as one of the league’s best pass blockers allowing zero sacks and only 10 pressures on 543 total attempts. Opposite Stanley Orlando Brown Jr has held down the fort in the passing and both Bozeman and Skura on the interior have performed at a high level. Losing Yanda to retirement is the only weak spot in the line as D.J. Fluker takes over his role.
Corner Backs – A+
- The best cornerback duo and room resides in Baltimore. Both Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters are top 10 corners going into 2020 and were first team All-Pro in 2019. Having Humphrey opposite him allows Peters to take chances and jump routes leading to turnovers and 3 pick sixes in 2019. The Ravens also have veterans Jimmy Smith and Tavon Young at 3rd and 4th string making their cornerback room the best in the league.
Safeties - A
- Earl Thomas was the piece the Ravens secondary were missing in 2018 and it showed in 2019. Thomas made his 7th Pro Bowl while patrolling the Ravens backfield, having Thomas behind them gives Humphrey and Peters added security in coverage. 2017 6th round pick Chuck Clark also came into his own in 2019 proving his ability in coverage opposite Thomas.
Edge Rushers – A-
- Similar to what makes a lot of Baltimore’s roster great their edge rusher depth goes deep. Matthew Judon and Calais Campbell assume the starting roles, over the past three seasons Judon has 24.5 sacks and 41 tackles for loss and Campbell has 31.5 sacks and 44 tackles for loss. Combined the pair make a lethal duo who can cause havoc in both the passing and run game. Veteran McPhee and 2nd year Jaylon Ferguson provide good depth as rotational pass rushers.
Interior Defensive Line - B
- The Ravens interior defensive line has very little pass rush presence but both Derek Wolfe and Brandon Williams are very good run stuffers, 2019 3rd round pick Justin Madubuike will add depth to the rotation.
Linebackers – B-
- Baltimore has an incredibly underrated middle linebacker group, the most notable name in the group Patrick Queen is many analysts steal of the 2019 draft when he fell to 28th overall. Behind Queen in the rotation is both L.J. Fort and Jake Ryan, while Fort has never been a starter has shown the ability over the past 2 years to do so, Ryan when last healthy was a good starting linebacker, if he can remain healthy in Baltimore they could have a good linebacker group.
Overall Grade – B+ 7.4/10
Quarterback – B+
- Ben Roethlisberger is now healthy after elbow surgery costed him his 2019 season, Big Ben might be 38 and undeniably turnover prone but when last seen he led the league in passing yards with 5,129 yards. If Roethlisberger can return to his 2018 form, there is no doubt the Steelers could be a contender in 2020.
Running Backs – B-
- James Conner will carry the load for Pittsburgh in 2020, while he is a good back he has struggled with injuries and regressed in 2019 from his breakout year in 2018. Snell and Samuel add some good depth but aren’t number one options.
Wide Receivers - B
- The Steelers have a young and talented receiving core with a lot of potential. JuJu Smith-Schuster was supposed to become the number one receiver in 2019 but injuries and quarterback play saw him instead regress massively from 89 yards per game to 46. James Washington showed why the Steelers spent a 2nd round pick on him with a breakout year and Diontae Johnson showed flashes in his rookie season of what Antonio Brown previously brought to Pittsburgh.
Tight Ends – B-
- Eric Ebron was a very underrated addition in the 2020 free agency, Ebron has been ridiculed throughout the NFL community for his hands, however, in my opinion that does not invalidate his undeniable talent and ability as a receiver. The Steelers then also have Vance McDonald as the backup option.
Offensive Line – A-
- They might be ageing but the Steelers offensive line is still one of the league’s best. Villanueva and Feiler are the leagues most underrated tackle duo and while DeCastro is not an elite run blocker anymore he is still an elite pass blocker. Pouncey regress in 2019 but there is no reason to believe he won’t regress to his previous quality of play.
Corner Backs – A-
- Steven Nelson is probably one of the leagues most underrated corners but more due to frustration at Steelers fans than Nelson’s ability. While Nelson’s number were comparable to those of Stephon Gilmore in 2019, I don’t think anyone truly believes they are on the same level. Joe Haden opposite Nelson and Hilton in the slot make up the rest of a great overall unit.
Safeties – A+
- The addition of Minkah Fitzpatrick changed life in Pittsburgh, while the Steelers only played 2 games before trading for Fitzpatrick in those 2 games they gave up 20% of their total passing yards and 26% of their total passing touchdowns for the season. The Steelers also only gave up 12 pass plays of over 25 yards over the final 14 games whereas they allowed 6 in their first two. Opposite Minkah is 2018 first round pick Terrel Edmunds, while the Steelers undoubtably reached for Edmunds he was a solid starter in the secondary and will continue to be so.
Edge Rushers - A
- While Dupree’s 11.5 sack breakout season which led to him being franchise tagged may not be an indicator for what’s to come, T.J. Watt is a bona fide superstar. Over the past two seasons Watt has 27.5 sacks, 26 tackles for loss, 14 forced fumbles and 57 quarterback hits. If Dupree can sustain his 2019 play, there’s no reason they can’t be the league’s best pass-rushing duo in 2020 I just don’t expect that to happen.
Interior Defensive Line – A+
- The Steelers interior defensive line is elite in every way imaginable, while losing Javon Hargrave at nose tackles is going to be a big loss the Steelers still have Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward who are both great in the pass and run game. Heyward has 29 sacks and 37 tackles for loss as well as 3 Pro Bowls and 2 first team All-Pros over the last 3 seasons, while Tuitt’s numbers aren’t even close he has proven himself to be great during his time in black and gold.
Linebackers – B
- Devin Bush had a good rookie year with flashes of brilliance and will partner that with consistency as he develops into his second year. Alongside Bush, Vince Williams provides not only a veteran presence but a high level of play. Williams has blitzed incredibly well throughout his entire career and his coverage skills and run defense were elevated in 2019 whilst playing alongside Bush.
Overall Grade – B+ 6.7/10
Quarterback – B-
- There’s no sugar coating it Mayfield was awful in 2019. Sure, offensive line struggles along with injured receivers played a part but a large amount of the blame falls on his shoulders. Moving from 2019 into 2020 Mayfield has no excuses for poor play, he has everything a young quarterback needs to excel: a run first system, an elite running back, the 2nd best receiving duo in the league and a revamp offensive line.
Running Backs – A+
- Nick Chubb is so underrated it’s unreal, somehow his 1,494-yard season in 2019 has flown under the radar. In my opinion he is behind only McCaffrey and Henry heading into 2020. Chubb has 18 runs of more than 20 yards over the past 2 years which is 2nd to only Barkley, 3 more broken tackles than any other rushers over the past 2 years and breaks them at the best rate of any back with more than 300 carries in the last 2 years. Chubb also leads the league in missed tackles forced since 2018 in the regular season with 110. Then when you partner Chubb with Kareem Hunt who led the league in rushing yard in his rookie year in 2017 and is a great receiver out the backfield you have the undisputed best running back duo in the NFL playing in the heaviest run heavy offense outside of Baltimore, they are primed for GREAT things in 2020.
Wide Receivers - A
- Odell Beckham Jr and Jarvis Landry makeup the 2nd best wide receiver duo in the NFL. Landry is arguably the best slot receiver in the league with some of the best hands making him a young quarterbacks dream and while Odell is 3 years removed from a great season he has battled injuries in all 3 years, now Odell is fully healthy coming off surgery and can get on the same page as Mayfield I see no reason why he won’t return to his elite play in 2020.
Tight Ends - B
- Not much frustrates me more than Austin Hooper overhype; Hooper is by no means a bad tight end I just believe he is incredibly overrated. whilst I can’t argue that Hooper has been productive, Hooper has got his production by finding soft spots in the defense more than any other tight end since 2016, 75.5% of his receiving yards have been on targets defined as holes in zone or underneath the defense according to Pro Football Focus and Since 2016 only 10 tight ends have run 500 or more routes against man coverage according to Pro Football Focus and Hooper ranks 10th in PFF receiving grade with 56.8/100, putting him behind the likes of Witten, Graham and Rudolph. Ultimately, I believe Hooper will be productive in Cleveland, but he is not as good as Browns fans think he is going to be. Njoku adds good depth to the position but his athletic ability has led him to become overrated in my opinion.
Offensive Line – A-
- Cleveland’s front office hit it out the park when it came to solidifying their offensive line in the offseason. The additions of Jack Conklin in free agency and Jedrick Wills Jr in the first round of the draft shored up both tackle spots which were cause of the Browns offensive line short comings in 2019. Now with Bitonio and Tretter manning the interior the Browns offensive line looks to be up there with the leagues best.
Corner Backs – B+
- Denzel Ward is who makes the Browns cornerback unit, Ward is one of the league’s best man corners and since entering the league Ward has allowed a 64.9 passer rating when targeted and allowed less than 50% of targets thrown his way to be caught. Greedy Williams may have fallen short of Browns fans expectations in 2019 but after a year of playing time and development it’s fair to expect that in 2020 he will be a good 2nd option.
Safeties – B-
- Raiders reject Karl Joseph and highly ranked rookie Grant Delpit make up the Browns safety tandem. For whatever reason despite a good level of play Karl Joseph never found his way into the Raiders good books, then when the Raiders drafted Jonathan Abram under the new front office the writing was on the wall. Delpit was a lock for the first round of the draft going into his final year in college, however the safeties play declined, Delpit accounted this to playing through injuries. Regardless, he is undoubtably a great prospect with elite athleticism, length and ball skill which the Browns will hope makes him a great safety in the pros.
Edge Rushers - A
- With exception to his inexcusable act of violence against Mason Rudolph in Week 10 Myles Garrett was on his way to another stellar year with 10 sacks and 11 tackles for loss in 10 games. The Browns then extended Garrett in the offseason to a 5-year $125 million deal locking the star pass-rusher up for the foreseeable future. Opposite Garrett is veteran edge rusher Olivier Vernon, who has had an underrated career so far playing in Miami, New York and now Cleveland, Vernon is a lock for around 7 to 8 sacks a year and has the ability to be a good run stopper but hasn’t truly shown it since 2016. Together Vernon and Garrett will make a formidable duo that will need to perform to get past the stacked offensive lines in Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
Interior Defensive Line - B
- While the Browns interior defensive line goes 4 deep there is not a huge amount of great talent. Sheldon Richardson is a good defensive tackle but is on his 4th team in 4 years, while I personally don’t know why this is the case it doesn’t look good at the very least. Ogunjobi is primarily a run stopper and has been mediocre since entering the league. Both billings and rookie Jordan Elliot will look to try and push out Ogunjobi in 2020. Elliot has star potential but up to this point in his career his play hasn’t matched it, he will look to take Ogunjobi’s place on pass rushing downs as that is his primary strength and Ogunjobis biggest weakness.
Linebackers – C-
- Although moving on from Joe Schobert was probably a good move in the long-term givens his contract demands and inefficiency in the run game, in the short term it leaves the Browns with one of the weakest and most inexperienced linebacker cores in the NFL. Mack Wilson, Sione Takitaki, Jacob Phillips and B.J. Goodson have 6 years of NFL experience between them and none of them have been particularly great, especially in coverage.
Overall Grade - B- 5.0/10
Quarterback - C
- Number one overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft Joe Burrow will start from week one in Cincinnati. Although Burrow had arguably the greatest season in college football history in 2019 that does not make him a lock to be great in the pros. Like all rookie quarterbacks Burrow with have some growing pains but his talent will show through.
Running Backs - A
- Joe Mixon just posted back to back 1,100+ rushing yard seasons. Mixon combines a blend of power and balance at 6ft-1 with natural Le’Veon Bell like patience behind the line of scrimmage. Between Week 10 and 17 he broke 44 tackles on fewer than 200 touches and averaged over 3.6 yards after contact per rush attempt, Derrick Henry led the league with 3.2 this year. Mixon will play a large part in Burrow’s and the Bengals success in 2020.
Wide Receivers – B+
- A.J. Green may have only played 9 games in 2 years, but he made 7 straight pro bowls between 2011-2017 and although he is 32 the Bengals franchise tagged him for a reason, he’s still got it. Tyler Boyd has performed while A.J. Green has been out with two back to back 1,000+ yard seasons. 2020 2nd round pick Tee Higgins will bring a great jump ball aspect to the Bengals receiving game as well as the ability to play all 3 receiver spots, Higgins also has a nose for the end zone scoring 27 touchdowns in 3 years at college.
Tight Ends - C
- Uzomah and Sample make up the bulk of the Bengals tight end room, Uzomah has spent all 5 years of his career in Cincinnati and has never eclipsed 450 yards, Sample was a second round pick in 2019, played in 9 games but only started two and finished the year with a grand total of 30 yards.
Offensive Line – D+
- Trey Hopkins is the one bright spot on the offensive line, he has been good pass blocker throughout his career, but he struggles in the run game. Jonah Williams the 11th overall pick in 2019 didn’t play a game in 2019 due to injury so to evaluate where he is at is close to impossible. Michael Jordan, Bobby Hart and Xavier Su’a-Filo were all below average at their respective positions in 2019.
Corner Backs – B-
- William Jackson III has regressed every year since his great rookie season and especially in 2019, if he can return to that form the Bengals will have a franchise lockdown corner and going into a contract year, he will have extra motivation. Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander were signed in free agency from the Vikings, Waynes struggles in coverage but has been great against the run each year since entering the league. Alexander is similar but slightly better in coverage but has seen fewer total snaps than Waynes throughout his career.
Safeties – B-
- Jessie Bates like a lot of the Bengals defense took a step back in 2019. Bates had a great rookie year but regressed in both the run game and coverage, assuming he returns to his 2018 play the Bengals will have a potential franchise safety. In 3 of his 4 years in the league Vonn Bell has been elite in the run game but struggles in coverage have let him down, if he can become even an average cover safety the Bengals could have a great safety duo.
Edge Rushers - B
- Carlos Dunlap is one of the leagues most underrated edge defender in the NFL, since 2015 Dunlap has averaged 9 sacks and 11 tackles for loss a year, he is an elite run defender and prove to be a good pass rusher. Opposite Dunlap is Sam Hubbard, Hubbard started no games in 2018 but started in 15 in 2019, over the course of the two seasons he totalled 14.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss, good numbers for a young defensive end, while he is not a great pass rusher he is a very good run stopper. Carl Lawson provides good depth to the unit as a rotational pass rusher proven by his 8.5 sacks as a rookie.
Interior Defensive Line – A-
- The interior of the Bengals offensive line is wildly underrated, Geno Atkins has made 8 of the last 9 Pro Bowls and has been the definition of durable, he hasn’t missed a game since 2013. He isn’t the elite run stopper he once was, but he is still good in that department whilst remaining a top end interior pass rusher. The Bengals made D.J. Reader the 11th highest paid interior lineman in 2020 free agency, Reader is a great run defender and a developing pass rusher. Veteran Mike Daniels adds some good depth but 2017 was his last great year.
Linebackers - C
- Germaine Pratt, Josh Bynes and Logan Wilson combine to make up the Bengals linebacker group. Germaine Pratt like most rookie linebackers struggled in his rookie year but a jump in play in his 2nd year would not be surprising. Wilson was the 2020, 3rd round pick, he was ultra-productive in college and a three-year captain, he has good coverage skills and a natural instinct for the ball, but like Pratt he will likely have some struggles adjusting to the speed of the NFL. Bynes has been a good run defender and above average in coverage, however he hasn’t seen a consistent high number of snaps in his entire career.
Image By: Joshua J. Seybert