2024 NFL Draft Review: Revealing each AFC North team’s mid-round gem

These hidden gems will make an impact in the AFC North.
Devontez Walker
Devontez Walker / Grant Halverson/GettyImages

The AFC North will be one of the most competitive divisions in all of football in 2024.  With the Cincinnati Bengals as the sole team to not make the playoffs a year ago, this division is going to be fun, especially when these teams square off against one another.  Another fun element is watching the impact of the 2024 NFL Draft class as each team made solid picks to improve their squads.

With the Baltimore Ravens looking to defend their AFC North title, the Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers will make it a hard fight, especially with how each team improved their teams in the draft, particularly the middle-rounds of the 2024 NFL Draft.

Which 2024 NFL Draft mid-round picks will shine in the AFC North?

NFL Mocks looks at which players drafted in the fourth or fifth round who have an opportunity to contribute for each AFC North team and make an impact.

Baltimore Ravens – WR Devontez Walker (Round 4– Pick 113)

When it comes to value in the NFL Draft, the Ravens have a history of finding good players later in the drive.  Could rookie wide receiver Devontez Walker continue that trend? 

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Devontez Walker
Devontez Walker / Grant Halverson/GettyImages

In going from the No. 1 target for Drake Maye at North Carolina to a target for Lamar Jackson in the Ravens’ offense, the No. 113 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft will have an opportunity to establish himself as the team’s vertical threat.  At 6-foot-1, 193 pounds, Walker has the skillset to get behind secondaries with a combination of speed and long strides which should make him a prime target for Jackson in his ability to extend plays.

In just 8 games played during his last season at UNC, Walker was named third-team All-ACC with 41 catches for 699 yards and 7 receiving touchdowns.  Although he has room for growth, including working on his footwork and increasing his route-running, he should be an entertaining rookie who will connect with Jackson with an explosive play or two as a first-year player in the AFC North.

Cincinnati Bengals– CB Josh Newton (Round 5– Pick 149)

A versatile cornerback who can play either outside corner or in the slot, former TCU star Josh Newton will turn out to be a solid player for the Cincinnati Bengals.

Cincinnati Bengals fifth-round draft pick Josh Newton will be a gem in the AFC North
NFL Combine / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages

Newton, who led TCU with 8 PBU’s in 2023, was just a year removed from earning First-team All-Big 12 Conference honors in 2022.  His versatility as a cornerback really stood out the last two seasons with his ability to play either press coverage or zone.  At 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, he has nice size for a corner, but what will stand out for Bengals fans and opposing AFC North teams is his physicality as a defensive back.  Along with his speed and IQ on the football field as a player who understands coverage, watch out for Newton to be a contributor Year 1 in the Bengals’ secondary.

Cleveland Browns –WR Jamari Thrash (Round 5 – Pick 157)

The Browns have a solid receiver group led by Amari Cooper, Jerry Jeudy and Elijah Moore, but don’t be surprised if this fifth-round pick out of Louisville doesn’t find himself on the field consistently and put some pressure on both Jeudy and Moore to live up to expectations.

Cleveland Browns rookie wide receiver Jamari Thrash
Cleveland Browns OTA Offseason Workouts / Nick Cammett/GettyImages

With Cooper approaching the age of 30, the selection of Thrash was a smart move by the Browns.  He will not only get to learn from a veteran receiver like Cooper, but he will also get an opportunity to get on the field as the fourth receiver. 

Coming off a lone season at Louisville in which he led the team with 63 receptions for 858 yards and 6 receiving TDs, Thrash’s smooth release and sudden cuts make him a player who can find openings in the middle of the field and get behind defenders as a deep threat.  With a quarterback who can extend plays like Deshaun Watson is capable of, Thrash could strive in the Browns’ offense, especially with the focus on Cooper and Jeudy.

In other words, he could be a problem in the AFC North.

Pittsburgh Steelers – G Mason McCormick (Round 4 – Pick 119)

The Steelers placed emphasis on the offensive line with their top 2 picks in the 2024 NFL Draft.  In drafting Troy Fautanu with the No. 20 overall pick and center Zach Frazier with the No. 51 overall pick, the Steelers revamped their O-line toughness with two studs who know how to dominate the trenches. 

Pittsburgh Steelers rookie guard Mason McCormick
NFL Combine / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages

But wait, the Steelers drafted another offensive lineman who could be a solid depth piece along the line by the name of Mason McCormick.  The South Dakota State product may turn out to be a steal for the Steelers who may have hit the jackpot with yet another player who could be a starting guard eventually, but in Year 1 will serve as a solid backup interior lineman. 

With his 6-foot-4, 309-pound frame, McCormick adds toughness, athleticism and durability to a Steelers O-line that has the potential to be good for a long time given the youth they have.  Over the last two drafts, the team has drafted Broderick Jones, Fautanu, Frazier and McCormick.  This is a young core that can be good for a long time in the AFC North.