2024 NFL Draft Review: One pivotal rookie for each team in the AFC North

These 2024 NFL Draft selections could be the difference in a competitive AFC North.
Michigan's Roman Wilson
Michigan's Roman Wilson / Ryan Kang/GettyImages
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Cleveland Browns –G Zak Zinter (Round 3 – Pick 85)

A theme for all teams in the AFC North in the 2024 NFL Draft was finding solid players to solidify the offensive line.  The quarterback power in the division combined with the solid-to-elite defenses each team has, emphasis has been placed on protecting the quarterback and finding lineman who can be a force in the run game.

Cleveland Browns guard Zak Zinter is a pivotal player in the AFC North
Michigan National Championship Celebration / Aaron J. Thornton/GettyImages

The Cleveland Browns found depth and a solid player in guard Zak Zinter, a unanimous first-team All-American selection out of the University of Michigan.  This was a great pick for the Browns and a good fit for Zinter who an aggressive, physical football player, enters the league with experience as a starting left guard.

With 33-year-old Pro-Bowl G Joel Bitonio ahead of him, Zinter may not start in the NFL right away, but that aggressive style of play in the pro-style offense Michigan ran under John Harbaugh will make Zinter a quality depth player for the Browns at the very least.  The ceiling during his rookie season could be eventually working his as a starter along the offensive line.  This would be pivotal in protecting Deshaun Watson and being a force in the run game for the Browns.

The only thing in the way of Zinter making an impact in Year 1 is a broken tibia and fibula suffered late in the college season in 2023.  The Browns rookie has so far participated in rookie minicamp and OTAs and has drawn some praise from veteran guard Wyatt Teller.

"Great kid," Teller said of Zinter, via the Browns official website. "My initial thoughts – works hard, coming off an injury, can't tell, which is good. Obviously, he has a little sock over it, but he's tough and I love that. I commend him on that. There's a lot to learn. When I got into the league, I was a fifth-round draft pick, so he's better than me. But he's a great kid and I know he's going to work hard."

That hard work will pay off for Zinter.  The Browns have a good one here!