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NFL Draft, AFC North

3 early predictions for the AFC North after the 2020 NFL Draft

After the NFL Draft, what has changed? The 2019 NFL season was the breakout campaign for quarterback Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens, earning the top spot in the AFC with zero in-division challengers. The Pittsburgh Steelers, despite a wealth of injuries, nearly reached the postseason, but ultimately only the Ravens stood out (only to lose in the divisional round against the Titans).

But now their three challengers had opportunities in the offseason via free agency and the 2020 NFL Draft to upgrade. Did any club make a noticeable difference to make up room with the Ravens?

3. The Bengals double their win total — at least!

Obviously this is a tongue-in-cheek reminder that the Cincinnati Bengals only won two games during the 2019 NFL season. There should be no doubt Cincinnati wins more than two and probably closer to 5-7 after securing the Heisman Trophy winner in the NFL Draft.

Another great move by the Bengals in the NFL Draft was taking Clemson wide receiver Tee Higgins with the first overall pick in the second round. It was a brilliant move pairing a young first-year gunslinger with a prized target (they played against each other in January’s College Football Playoff’s National Championship Game, too).

The Bengals shouldn’t compete with the Ravens in 2020, but the offense should make strides a year removed from scoring 17.4 points per game.

2. Cleveland starts to click

Much of the offseason noise surrounding the Cleveland Browns has buzzed around star wideout Odell Beckham Jr. and how he wants out, or even that the team wants him out. The Browns spent most of their offseason revamping the offensive line for rising junior quarterback Baker Mayfield along with taking standout Alabama offensive tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. with the 10th pick in the NFL Draft last Thursday.

With Beckham, for the moment, still on the team along with Michigan receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, who was taken in this NFL Draft, the Browns should take a step in the right direction in 2020, maybe winning eight games. Another year with Beckham and the former Giants star’s college teammate Jarvis Landry out wide, Mayfield should find a rhythm in offense after a shaky sophomore campaign.

1. The Ravens are still kings of the division … for now

Baltimore has widely been commended for a solid NFL Draft, taking speedy Ohio State rusher JK Dobbins in the second round to fit their system alongside Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram Jr. like a glove, along with an improvement in the middle of the field on defense with LSU linebacker Patrick Queen.

It’s tough to complain too much about the Ravens after the NFL Draft—they still need better wideouts, one would hope—because the reigning regular-season MVP (Jackson) and the lightning fast Baltimore team should be the standard bearer in the AFC North in 2020. They will be challenged by the Browns, while the Steelers have a few things to get in order, namely how healthy Ben Roethlisberger can be this coming season.

Until then, the Ravens still rule the division and, despite a few offseason tweaks from their rivals (most prominently Cincinnati selecting the top college QB), Baltimore should remain viewed as the overdog after the NFL Draft.