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Ravens Insider: Mike Preston: Ravens, AFC North got better through NFL draft, but so did the Chiefs | COMMENTARY


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The Kansas City Chiefs have won the last two Super Bowls, so whenever they make a move to get better, 31 other NFL teams can’t help but shake their collective heads.

So, when the Chiefs traded up to acquire Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy at the end of the first round and moved up again in the second to take BYU offensive lineman tackle Kingsley Suamataia, it happened. The champs got better.


The Ravens made progress and had a solid draft, but so did the rival Steelers and Bengals. So did the Colts, another AFC foe.

The Chiefs? The consensus is that they had a great draft, and that’s bad news for the rest of the AFC because they already have the best quarterback in the NFL in Patrick Mahomes and a roster full of young, talented players.

Now, Kansas City has rebuilt a receiving corps with Worthy, who ran he 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine in a record 4.21 seconds. He’ll join former Raven Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, another speedster whom the Chiefs signed in free agency.

Brown was never a tough receiver in Baltimore, but the modern-day NFL is about having elusive and speedy receivers. We all remember what Kansas City coach Andy Reid did with the speedy Tyreek Hill from 2016 through 2021.

The Chiefs selected Suamataia with the 63rd overall pick and he’ll battle either Wanya Morris, a third-round pick last season, for the starting left tackle job or eventually secure a starting spot on the right side. Kansas City led the league in pass block win rate in each of the past two seasons. And now they’ll be even better.

They also added safety Jaden Hicks, a fourth-round pick out of Washington State, who will eventually find some playing time in coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s defense before the end of the season.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh went old school. A year ago, the Steelers took Broderick Jones with the 14th pick to anchor their defensive line, and this weekend they helped solidify their offensive line by taking Washington left offensive tackle Troy Fautanu with the No. 20 pick and West Virginia center Zach Frazier with their next pick, 51st overall. Combined with guards Isaac Seumalo and James Daniels, Pittsburgh should have one of the best units in the NFL.

A year ago, they already had a strong running game paced by Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren, but the passing game should improve with the addition of free-agent quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Justin Fields. The Steelers took wide receiver Roman Wilson in the third round, and while the Michigan product had only 48 catches for 789 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, Pittsburgh has a history of producing quality receivers.

Georgia offensive lineman Amarius Mims speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Saturday, March 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
The Bengals bulked up their offensive line by taking Georgia’s Amarius Mims in the first round. (Michael Conroy/AP)

The Steelers weren’t the only conference rival to beef up. Cincinnati added some bulk to its interior lines with Georgia offensive tackle Amarius Mims, the 18th overall pick in the first round, and Michigan defensive lineman Kris Jenkins and Texas A&M nose tackle McKinnley Jackson in the second and third rounds, respectively.

Mims might need some time to develop as a tackle, but Jenkins and Jackson will add to a defense that allowed 126.2 rushing yards per game last season. The Bengals also added Alabama receiver Jermaine Burton, who had 39 catches for 798 yards and eight touchdowns last season, to pair with an already elite unit that features Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins.

Cincinnati has two decent cornerbacks in Cam Taylor-Britt and D.J. Turner, but TCU’s Josh Newtown, taken in the fifth round, will add to the depth, especially in passing situations.

The key, as it is for every team in the NFL, is to keep the starting quarterback healthy, and if Joe Burrow recovers from a wrist injury that sidelined him for much of the second half of the season, the Bengals will contend for the division crown.

Indianapolis, which finished 9-8 last season, also had a strong draft. The Colts drafted UCLA edge rusher Laiatu Latu with the No. 15 overall pick in the first round and then added Texas receiver Adonai Mitchell in the second.

Some questioned Mitchell’s character and work ethic, but remember, this is the NFL, not the Boy Scouts. The Colts also added Pittsburgh offensive lineman Matt Goncalves in the third round and Wisconsin center Tanor Bortolini in the fourth. Goncalves can play either guard or tackle, but tackle might be his best position.

The Colts, though, like the Steelers, Bengals and Ravens, improved significantly, but it’s yet to be determined if it was enough to catch Kansas City.

When the Chiefs traded up four spots with Buffalo to get Worthy, you knew Worthy had to be special. When they made a similar deal with the San Francisco 49ers to move up a spot to select Suamatai, it became clear Kansas City is going all-in on a three-peat.

A lot of the good teams got better, but did any draft as well or sign enough free agents so far to stop Kansas City?

That’ll be the story of the 2024 season.

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