Cincinnati Bengals WR Tee Higgins

Rob Weintraub's 2020 All-AFC North Team

The first goal every NFL team sets is to win its division. How those eight fratricidal battles shake out usually determines team success in any given season. Yet postseason laurels are broken down by conference, if at all. That never made sense to me—even college football selects all-conference teams. Why don't the pros anoint the best each division has to offer?

Well, now they do. The All-Division teams continue with the AFC North.

OFFENSE

QB: Baker Mayfield, CLE

Ben Roethlisberger's collapse, Joe Burrow's injury, and Lamar Jackson's (relative) swoon opened the door for Mayfield to slip into the All-Div spot. While we mock the NFC East quarterbacks (and rightfully so), Mayfield was only 16th overall in DYAR and 17th in DVOA (10th in QBR), so while he certainly played well, his place on this team was aided by the competition. Jackson was merely (by his standards) sixth in rushing DYAR, not enough to overcome his average passing numbers.

RB: Nick Chubb, CLE
RB: J.K. Dobbins, BAL

Dobbins grabbed the featured runner spot in Baltimore with both hands as a rookie and wound up leading the league in DVOA. Chubb was third overall in rushing DYAR despite missing a month to a knee injury. Teammate Kareem Hunt had an excellent season catching passes, but Chubb slips past him for the All-Div nod.

WR: Tee Higgins, CIN
WR: Jarvis Landry, CLE
WR: Chase Claypool, PIT
TE: Mark Andrews, BAL

A pair of rookies crack the AFC North squad, though Higgins was by far superior to Claypool, especially given the fact Tee got only half a season with a competent quarterback. Landry continues to be a much more efficient player than he was in Miami, where he set the standard for empty stats. Andrews was easily the top tight end, though he was well off his 2019 standard. Cleveland spent huge money on Austin Hooper to get the same DYAR (-12) as Cincy got from blocking tight end Drew Sample (whom they overdrafted in the second round in 2019, as it happens).

OT: Jack Conklin, CLE
OT: Orlando Brown, BAL
OG: Joel Bitonio, CLE
OG: David DeCastro, PIT
C: JC Tretter, CLE

Cleveland's renaissance can be traced to this position group, as Conklin's signing and Bitonio's and Tretter's steady excellence helped turn the Browns front into the best in football. A fourth Clevelander, Wyatt Teller, may have been the other guard if he had played more than 11 games—DeCastro had fewer blown blocks in more starts. Brown, already a damn fine right tackle, took over for the injured Ronnie Stanley on the left side with such aplomb that he demanded a trade from Baltimore so he could do it full-time.

DEFENSE

ER: Myles Garrett, CLE
ER: T.J. Watt, PIT
DL: Cameron Heyward, PIT
DL: Stephon Tuitt, PIT

Pittsburgh's pass rush remained fearsome, dominating the All-Div team to the point that only the incredible Garrett could crack it from the outside.

LB: Matt Judon, BAL
LB: Josh Bynes, CIN
LB: Vince Williams, PIT

No AFC North team had a particularly good set of linebackers, especially after the injury to Devin Bush, allowing decent but hardly spectacular vets such as Bynes and Williams to make the squad.

CB: Marlon Humphrey, BAL
CB: Joe Haden, PIT
CB: William Jackson, CIN
S: Jessie Bates, CIN
S: Minkah Fitzpatrick, PIT

Haden and Jackson had underrated seasons (fourth and fifth overall in Success Rate), much superior to the far more hyped Marcus Peters in Baltimore. Bates had an All-Pro caliber season with a fraction of the publicity of Fitzpatrick, who took a step back from last season but still easily made this squad.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K: Justin Tucker, BAL
P: Kevin Huber, CIN
RET: Devin Duvernay, BAL

Tucker actually looked human this season, leading up to his postseason debacle, but still was easily the best foot in the division. Huber had a 72-yard punt, tied for the longest of the season, and easily outdistanced a weak group of AFC North punters. Duvernay led the Ravens to the most kickoff return points of any team, earning him the nod over Ray-Ray McCloud, who handled both kickoff and punt return duties for the Steelers, neither with any particular aplomb.

Comments

2 comments, Last at 07 Mar 2021, 12:28pm

1 Lamar vs Baker

Baker over Lamar is a head-scratcher. If you put Lamar behind that O-line and give him those weapons, he's easily an MVP candidate.