What was the best 2022 NFL Draft pick made by each team in the AFC North?
The AFC North will be one of the most exciting divisions in all of football for the foreseeable future. Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson, and Deshaun Watson playing against one another twice a year makes for must-watch action. Throw in Pittsburgh’s uncanny ability to always compete for a playoff spot, and you have the makings for some dogfights that can change the landscape in the entire conference over the course of the season.
Not only did all four teams come into last weekend’s 2022 NFL Draft with playoff aspirations, but each of them added rookie pieces to help ensure those dreams come to fruition. Let’s take a look at which of those pieces may just wind up being their team’s best pick.
Baltimore Ravens: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
Let’s start in Baltimore, where Eric DeCosta and company absolutely knocked it out of the park with this year’s crop of draftees. The Ravens added players at every level to bolster an already-talented roster that was decimated by injuries last season.
Perhaps the rookie who is poised to make the most immediate, and long-term, impact is Tyler Linderbaum. If Linderbaum were a tackle, he would have been the first pick in the draft. If he were a guard, he would have gone in the top five.
However, since he plays the undervalued position of center, Linderbaum slid all the way to the Ravens at pick 24. Linderbaum is the closest thing in this draft to a generational talent, and he should bolster Baltimore’s o-line unit at potentially an All-Pro level for the next ten to fifteen seasons.
Cincinnati Bengals: Cordell Volson, OL, North Dakota State
Cincinnati also had a productive 2022 NFL Draft, choosing to focus on adding speed, athleticism, and versatility primarily to the secondary. The Bengals will have some contract-year players to replace after the upcoming season and are now well-suited to do so.
Let’s take a look at fourth-rounder Cordell Volson. Volson comes to the Bengals via FCS mega-power North Dakota State and is exactly the type of player Offensive Line Coach Frank Pollack covets. The Bengals spent a lot of money in free-agency to shore up the o-line, and rightfully so. However, the left guard spot remains unclaimed and Volson may come in right away and snatch it up.
Last year’s second-rounder, Jackson Carman, is the leader in the clubhouse, but Volson’s skillset and demeanor may wind up earning him the opportunity to protect Joe Burrow and open holes for Joe Mixon sooner than later.
Cleveland Browns: Perrion Winfrey, DL, Oklahoma
The Browns have had a bit of a tumultuous offseason to say the least, but are the current betting favorites to win the AFC North. Much of the talk of Cleveland’s offseason has focused on the additions of Deshaun Watson and Amari Cooper on the offensive side of the ball.
A sneaky-good, day-three pick on the other side of the ball was Perrion Winfrey, the defensive tackle out of Oklahoma, with the 108th pick. Winfrey flashed at times this season, including in his MVP performance at the Senior Bowl, as a borderline-unstoppable force defending against the run and supplying pressure up the middle. Getting him in round four was a steal as he should end up starting on Cleveland’s defensive line immediately.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Calvin Austin III, WR, Memphis
Rounding out the division are the Steelers, whose selection of Kenny Pickett in round one 2022 NFL Draft has received mixed reviews. However, one thing that cannot be disputed is how well Pittsburgh addressed their wide receiver room.
George Pickens was a nice addition in round two. The fourth-round, though, is when they may have added their most potent new weapon. Speedster Calvin Austin III out of Memphis has the ability to stretch the field vertically or to dominate underneath against slot corners and linebackers. With the right package of receiving threats on the field at the same time, defenders will have to pick their poison as far as who they want to single-cover. That could leave Austin III with mismatches galore.