Below we discuss the projected first-round selections for teams residing in the AFC North and how those picks will impact their respective seasons.
Cincinnati Bengals: #1 Overall Pick
Andy Dalton still has a year left on his contract but the Bengals would desperately love to deal him and take the weight of his $17 million contract off their hands. Of course, the reason is that the consensus No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, Joe Burrow, is waiting in the wings to be plucked by Cincinnati and begin his NFL career as a Bengal.
· #1 Joe Burrow (QB, LSU) – I can’t imagine what it would take to convince the Bengals that trading down for a bounty of first and second-round picks would be a better idea than selecting LSU’s wunderkind, Joe Burrow. His numbers last season were staggering as evidenced by his 5,671 passing yards, 60 passing touchdowns along with five rushing, only six picks, and a whopping 202.0 passer rating.
The 6’4” Athens, Ohio product tallied 841 of the 885 potential first-place votes in winning the Heisman Trophy before he led his Tigers to a National Championship. Burrow is such a mortal lock to be drafted as the first quarterback chosen that the Sportsbook ReviewNFL props only have odds on the second quarterback selected, which happens to be Tua Tagovaiola at -550. The Bengals will be turning in their Red Rifle for Bazooka Joe on draft day.
Cleveland Browns: #10 Overall Pick
The Browns meandered through another disappointing season after expectations were high on Baker Mayfield to get the franchise on track. If we peruse the NFL odds over at Sportsbook Reviewwe see Cleveland’s season win total for 2020 is 8 ½ (O-115) which means if they do surpass that total it could mean we see the Browns in the postseason for the first time in a long time.
· #10 Andrew Thomas (OT, Georgia) – The Browns needed to get bigger, meaner, and tougher on the offensive line which is why they made a big splash with the free agency signing of former Titan Jack Conklin to shore up the right side. But one piece does not a puzzle make and it would be surprising if Cleveland addressed another need other than left tackle. Georgia’s Andrew Thomas is one of a possible six offensive linemen expected to go in the opening round and he might not even be the first one selected.
Thomas fits here because he has experience on the left side versus other elite blockers who played on the right. If Thomas is gone before No. 10 then the Browns will opt for whoever remains among Alabama’s Jedrick Wills, Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs, Louisville’s Mekhi Becton, USC’s Austin Jackson, or Houston’s Josh Jones.
Baltimore Ravens: #28 Overall Pick
Last year the Ravens were on a collision course with the Chiefs for the AFC title but that effort was derailed courtesy of a stunning 28-12 loss to the Titans. Undoubtedly Baltimore will be loaded for bear and ready to roll when the 2020 campaign commences. All signs point to the Ravens bolstering their defensive line, therefore, with the 28th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Baltimore selects…
· #28 A.J. Epenesa (DE, Iowa) – Chase Young and a few other elite defensive ends will be gone by the time Baltimore gets their pick of the litter but Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa isn’t a bad consolation prize. The Ravens have the luxury of picking the best player available but even if Epenesa doesn’t quite fit that profile, he is close enough to it that it would be worth drafting a high energy edge rusher who would fill a void and could blossom at the next level.
Pittsburgh Steelers: #49 Overall Pick
Barring a trade, the Steelers will sit out the first round due to their deal with the Dolphins for Minkah Fitzpatrick. So, instead of selecting at No. 18, Pittsburgh will call their first draft pick to the virtual stage at No. 49 and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if they decided on an heir to Big Ben.
· #49 Jacob Eason (QB, Washington) – If you blindly included the Steelers in your NFL picks last season then you emerged with a 9-7 ATS mark and a few bucks in your pocket. However, the season was in jeopardy after the second game of the season when Ben Roethlisberger went down and the not so dynamic duo of Mason Rudolph and Duck Hodges took the reins of the offense.
At 38-years-old and prone to injury the time is now to groom Big Ben’s replacement and Washington’s Jacob Eason would be a stellar pick at this point in the draft. At 6’6”, 230 pounds and armed with a cannon Eason bears a striking resemblance to Roethlisberger without quite as much beef. Pittsburgh fans will be just fine with that as the kid will get a year to look and learn, assuming Roethlisberger remains upright over 17 weeks.