National Football League
2022 NFL Draft Grades: Ravens top AFC North with elite class
National Football League

2022 NFL Draft Grades: Ravens top AFC North with elite class

Updated May. 4, 2022 2:54 p.m. ET

By Rob Rang
FOX Sports NFL Draft Analyst

My series of report cards for the 2022 NFL Draft continues today with an evaluation of the AFC North.

You can check out my grades for the other divisions here:


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Let's break down what the four AFC North teams did in the draft and in signing undrafted free agents.

Baltimore Ravens
Grade: A-

It just seems like some clubs have cheat codes when it comes to the NFL Draft and, if that is indeed the case, the Ravens might have invented them. Dating to Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome's run as general manager, the Ravens have consistently filled key needs on draft day even while largely operating from a best player available strategy and very rarely reaching.

That was the case a year ago with wideout Rashod Bateman and edge rusher Odafe Oweh. It was again the case last week, when Baltimore nabbed arguably the best overall player in the class in Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton at No. 14 overall and then utilized the 25th overall pick, acquired from Arizona in the Marquise Brown trade, to select sure-thing center Tyler Linderbaum.

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The Ravens’ commitment to selecting good players over projections has kept the club competitive despite plenty of turnover. While many will question why Baltimore didn't go for a speed threat to replace Brown, I have a hard time faulting the club for not selecting a receiver early, given the talent acquired at other key positions.

Hamilton’s size and range make him a unique talent in a class full of exciting safeties. He is an especially intriguing fit in one of the few divisions that boasts both dominant running and passing attacks.

For as much as I love Linderbaum as a prospect, his game is about quickness and technique, a far cry from the maulers Baltimore has previously prioritized up front. That isn’t to say he is a poor fit, however. Linderbaum is a transcendent talent who is simply a good player, not just a zone fit.

With the trade of Brown, the Ravens’ running game is even more critical, and Linderbaum’s ability to generate rushing lanes for his backs and protect QB Lamar Jackson warrants the club’s selection.

With all due respect to Jordan Davis — selected nearly 60 picks earlier — former Connecticut defensive tackle Travis Jones might have been the best combination of raw power and athleticism at the position in this draft class. Frankly, with the way he dominated Senior Bowl practices, Jones practically screamed Baltimore Ravens. His plug-and-play ability up front also made Baltimore's selection of uber-talented (but injured) edge rusher David Ojabo at No. 45 overall that much more understandable.

I loved the strategy Baltimore employed in acquiring its record six fourth-round selections, as well as the hustle it showed in undrafted free agency. 

GM Eric DeCosta recognized the extra talent available in this class due to the NCAA's granting players an extra year of eligibility, and he specifically targeted middle-round selections to take full advantage of the bloated class. 

I like the strategy more than I like the players the Ravens acquired, however. I have concerns about the pass protection that massive OL Daniel Faalele will provide and think San Diego State’s "Punt God" Matt Araiza is a better prospect than Penn State’s Jordan Stout

On the other hand, given the way this offense is expected to change, with Brown now in Arizona, I appreciate the versatility that tight ends Charlie Kolar and Isaiah Likely offer alongside star Mark Andrews. I also like the way outside cornerback Jalyn Armour-Davis (Alabama) and slot Damarion Williams (Houston) complement each other, especially given the advancing age of Baltimore’s current secondary.

Along with speedy sixth-round running back Tyler Badie (Missouri), the Ravens nabbed my favorite class of UDFAs. The highlights include three legitimately draftable receivers in Mississippi State’s Makai Polk, North Carolina State’s Emeka Emezie and Alabama's Slade Bolden, as well as Oregon quarterback Anthony Brown, Auburn offensive lineman Brodarious Hamm and Florida edge rusher Jeremiah Moon.

Top to bottom, this might very well be the best draft class in the NFL in 2022. Critics will understandably point out that the Ravens did not add a receiver with Brown’s playmaking ability, which is the only reason I cannot give Baltimore's class the full "A."

Cincinnati Bengals
Grade: B+

While the division-rival Ravens earned the top grade in the division in large part due to the quantity of their draft, the Bengals brought in better quality than most clubs across the league — and with just a six-player class. 

I was higher on both of their top picks — defensive backs Dax Hill (Michigan) and Cam Taylor-Britt (Nebraska) — than most, and some might argue that my pre-draft ranking of them clouds my judgment. But given the shootouts Cincinnati is likely to face as opponents attempt to keep up with Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase & Co., it made sense that the Bengals prioritized defensive backs in this class. 

Hill offers exceptional speed and cover skills as both a safety and nickelback, while Taylor-Britt is a rare thumper with ball-hawking skills at cornerback.

That same mentality is why I am higher on the fit of former Florida defensive tackle Zachary Carter for Cincinnati than I was on him overall. Carter’s quickness and agility make him an ideal candidate to disrupt opposing quarterbacks, but at 6-foot-4, 282 pounds, he lacks the ideal bulk and power to handle every-down duties inside. I believe that he and sixth-round pick Jeffrey Gunter (Coastal Carolina) are both tougher than their size suggests.

I’ve already gushed about North Dakota State blocker Cordell Volson, who ranked as one of my favorite sleepers in this class. I think he will ultimately prove to be a Day 3 steal. I also like the upside of Toledo safety Tycen Anderson, though his initial impact is likely to be felt on special teams.

Cincinnati’s UDFA class offers both quality and quantity, especially along the offensive line. I am highest on former Mississippi blocker Ben Brown and also like Florida’s Stewart Reese and Georgia Tech’s Devin Cochran. Colorado linebacker Carson Wells and Washington defensive back Brendan Radley-Hiles also earned draftable grades. I wouldn’t be surprised if they challenge for roster spots. 

Cleveland Browns
Grade: B

Cleveland made a couple of big trades over draft weekend and acquired quality talent in doing so. But amid all the speculation that the team would move on from former No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield, the Browns' picks have not generated much buzz from a national perspective. At least in my opinion, that is a bit of an oversight.

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I am a bit higher on former Mississippi State cornerback Martin Emerson than others appear to be. While his lack of interceptions is concerning, his size, experience in the mighty SEC and quality run support will be put to good use in a division boasting quality running attacks. 

Emerson is not the flashy athlete that Greedy Williams was when he was selected in the second round out of LSU in 2019, but he’s a cleaner overall prospect who might very well beat Williams as a starter. 

I am also a fan of former Purdue receiver David Bell, who is a better football player than athlete, as his gaudy statistics (but disappointing workouts) suggest. I am a huge fan of LSU kicker Cade York, whom I believe will wind up being the best specialist drafted this year.

One of the things I like most about Cleveland’s draft is that GM Andrew Berry sprinkled plenty of high-upside projects in with the pro-ready Emerson, Bell and York.

While defensive tackle Perrion Winfrey struggled with consistency at Oklahoma, he dominated at times at the Senior Bowl, especially during the all-important third day of practice. I stood next to Winfrey throughout moments of that practice and saw (and heard) the intensity with which he practiced, as well as the impact his quickness and power had on the opposition. 

The Browns, of course, boast one of the NFL’s most dominant defenders in edge rusher Myles Garrett; Winfrey possesses the burst and nastiness to serve as a perfect complement inside.

Although selected 30 picks earlier, edge rusher Alex Wright is even more of a project than Winfrey. Still, the flashes on Wright's Alabama-Birmingham tape are ultra-bright. Plus, like the former OU defensive tackle, Wright will face single-team blocks due to Garrett’s greatness on the other side.

Former Cincinnati Bearcats running back Jerome Ford, a fifth-round pick, was overshadowed by teammates, but I like his talent. Of Cleveland’s UDFA class, I’m highest on Boston College offensive lineman Ben Petrula and a pair of wideouts in Northern Iowa’s Isaiah Weston and Washington State’s Travell Harris, who also has returner ability. 

Pittsburgh Steelers
Grade: B-

As the only team to invest anything higher than a middle-round selection in a quarterback, the Steelers’ 2022 draft class is largely in the hands of Kenny Pickett.

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Throwing a soft jab at the "small hands" issue that followed Pickett throughout much of the draft process is far from unintentional. While I certainly believe prospects can be overanalyzed in all the buildup to the draft, Pickett did struggle with fumbles at Pitt, putting the ball on the ground 38 times in 49 starts. Then he struggled at the Senior Bowl, especially during the foulest weather on Wednesday, dropping a couple of exchanges with his center and spraying the ball as a passer.

Of course, all of that might have played out perfectly for the Steelers and outgoing general manager Kevin Colbert. Despite any drawbacks, there is no question that Pickett is the most pro-ready quarterback in this class, and Pittsburgh needed help at the position with Ben Roethlisberger retiring.

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Pickett (as well as veteran QBs Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph) will appreciate the Steelers' nabbing a pair of dynamic pass-catchers in the second and fourth rounds. As with Pickett, there are some red flags with former Georgia wideout George Pickens, but, my goodness, his talent is undeniable. His size, speed, jumping ability and hand-eye coordination are the stuff of a future No. 1 target. 

And Memphis' Calvin Austin III is an ideal slot receiver to complement Pickens and Chase Claypool on the outside.

Those playmaking receivers sandwiched one of the more surprising selections in the AFC North draft classes: DeMarvin Leal. The Texas A&M defensive end was more slippery than surly during his college career, a definite contrast to the highly physical tone-setters the Steelers have typically prioritized along their defensive line. 

Pittsburgh already has plenty of nastiness up front, however, and given the attention that T.J. Watt commands, Leal is an intriguing candidate to surprise, just as last year’s oft-criticized second-round pick Pat Freiermuth did. I was high on Freiermuth’s selection a year ago, and I’m bullish on Leal’s potential as well, especially on a defense this talented.

That said, I am not as enamored with Pittsburgh’s Day 3 selections and question how many of the Steelers’ reported 10 UDFA signings will make the roster. My favorite of the bunch is former USC cornerback Chris Steele

One of the most recognized names in the industry, Rob Rang has been covering the NFL Draft for more than 20 years, with work at FOX, Sports Illustrated,, USA Today, Yahoo, and, among others.


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