For the third straight year, we’re continuing the Ranking the Rooms: AFC North series here at Steelers Depot. You can find the latest rankings here. Today, we’ll move outside, taking a look at the AFC North WRs room.
I’ll personally run down each position, starting with the quarterbacks in the division, and ending with specialists in this 10-part series.
In case you forgot the rankings from last summer, I have you covered.
Here is the 2017 Ranking the Rooms: AFC North WRs list:
1. Pittsburgh Steelers
2. Cincinnati Bengals
3. Cleveland Browns
4. Baltimore Ravens
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the 2018 rankings for the AFC North wide receivers.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers
Best receiver in the world? Check.
Jokes aside, any room that has Antonio Brown in it might as well be near the top of the league, let alone their own division. Brown continues to put up video game numbers with no end in sight. It’s amazing what he’s doing against double and triple coverage on a weekly basis.
Behind Brown, second-year pro JuJu Smith-Schuster will take the league by storm once again, while second round pick James Washington will step into the role left behind by Martavis Bryant, who was shipped to Oakland during the draft.
Smith-Schuster might struggle a bit this year out of the gate, as defensive coordinators will undoubtedly plan to stop him and AB together, but if Washington can produce right away as a deep threat, look out. This group might just be one of the best in the entire league.
Behind the trio, guys like Darrius Heyward-Bey, Justin Hunter, and Marcus Tucker return, while Eli Rogers should be brought back into the fold before training camp. Rookies Damoun Patterson, and Quandree Henderson, and first-year players Justin Thomas, Trey Griffey and Tevin Jones are also in the mix heading into camp. Heyward-Bey, Tucker, and Patterson should battle each other for the special teams role at receiver, while Hunter should be more productive now that some space has opened up for him on the 53-man roster.
But make no mistake, this group will go as the top three go. Based on their track record (AB and JuJu) and ceiling (Washington), the sky is the limit.
2. Cleveland Browns
What a jump this is for the Browns, moving from last to second after just one year. What happened?
Well, the acquisition of Jarvis Landry, a healthy and focused Josh Gordon, and additional years of experience for Corey Coleman and Rashad Higgins happened.
Landry isn’t one of the best receivers in the game like he thinks he is, but he’s uber productive, albeit in a limited role around the line of scrimmage. If he can expand his game now that he’s out of Miami, the Browns might have rolled the dice at the right time. With Gordon, he’s rocked up this off-season, and appears poised to dominate the league once again. I’ve always been in Gordon’s corner, and I’m excited to see what he can do this year.
With guys like Coleman and Higgins, they’re still young and talented, even if Steelers fans only remember Coleman dropping the fourth-down pass to potentially give the Browns their only win of the season in Week 17 last year. Now that both Coleman and Higgins are in No.3-4 roles, they should be able to thrive in the middle of the field.
Depth guys like Ricardo Louis, Damion Ratley, Jeff Janis, and Antonio Callaway give the Browns a well-rounded room that will create some great competition this summer during camp.
3. Cincinnati Bengals
AJ Green returns, and that’s about the only good news for the Bengals at receiver. Green continues to dominate season after season, despite having a lack of production around him at receiver since Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu were allowed to walk in free agency a few years ago.
Third-year pro Tyler Boyd has been mostly a disappointment since being drafted out of Pittsburgh, while second-year pro John Ross has a lot of ground to make up after not catching a single pass as a rookie last year after being the No. 9 overall pick. He could bust out this year, but there are too many question marks with his game to expect that if you’re the Bengals.
Second-year pro Josh Malone developed good rapport with Andy Dalton last season, and could emerge as a solid No. 3, while Brandon LaFell is back as a decent No. 2 for the Bengals. Cody Core returns as a special teams option, while Alex Erickson also returns, providing the Bengals with an elite returner who also brings some juice to the roster as a slot receiver.
Rookie Auden Tate gives the Bengals a big body, but I’m not sure he’s more of a tight end than receiver down the line.
4. Baltimore Ravens
It’s true, the Ravens beefed up the receiving corps this offseason. Talent was definitely added, but it wasn’t enough to get them out of the basement in the AFC North in the rankings, in my opinion.
Michael Crabtree is a good get for the Ravens, but can Joe Flacco really unleash Crabtree’s talents like Derek Carr did the last few years in Oakland? I have my doubts. Plus, is Crabtree – at 31 – the guy who put up 89/1003/8 in 2016, of the guy who put up 58/618/8 last season?
John Brown comes over from Arizona as a deep threat for the Ravens, but he’s struggled with health and consistency the last two years, so it’s a wonder if he’ll be able to put it all together again in Baltimore.
What I like a lot about this Ravens group is the young guys, like rookies Jordan Lasley and Jaleel Scott, and second-year pro Quincy Adeboyejo, as well as fourth-year pro Willie Snead IV.
Lasley and Adeboyejo can be very good run-after-catch guys for the Ravens, while Scott is a guy who can jump with the best of them, going up and getting jump balls. How they’ll fair in the NFL is anybody’s guess, but the Ravens did a nice job of getting their hands on these guys.
Crabtree, Brown, and Snead IV are nice additions, but do they make the Ravens’ offense that much better, considering who is at quarterback? I have serious doubts.