AFC North Draft Grades
Baltimore once again showed why they are one of the top teams in the league each year. They had another brilliant draft, trading out of the first round and recouping the picks they lost in their trade for Anquan Boldin. In the 2nd round the Ravens took a pair of very talented players, both of whom are perfect fits for Baltimore. OLB Sergio Kindle is a tenacious pass rusher and benefits by slipping some to the Ravens. Now instead of being one of the top guys on a bad team, Kindle can have the time to develop into a great player. He should find plenty of freedom playing along with all the starts the Ravens have on D. Baltimore’s second 2nd round pick, will do a great job in opening up holes for Kindle and the rest of the linebackers. Nose tackle Terrence Cody is a perfect fit in Baltimore. They have the depth that he won’t have to be an every down player, also his presence next to Ngata along the front line should give the Ravens a devastating run defense. After filling their defensive needs, the Ravens loaded up on pass catchers drafting tight ends in the 3rd and 4th rounds (thanks to the Tim Tebow deal) and a receiver in the 5th round. Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson are good complimentary tight ends. Dickson is the stronger, faster and more athletic one. While Pitta has great hands and instincts. Both should be immediate contributors, giving Joe Flacco one of the best arsenals in the league. Fifth round pick David Reed, was one of my favorite players in this draft and I expect him to emerge as the successor to Derrick Mason. The Ravens also added a solid DT/DE in Arthur Jones in the 5th round. He will move to end in the 3-4, but has a lot of potential. While the Ravens didn’t draft one of their bigger needs (cornerback), they added another fantastic class. When you factor in Boldin to this mix, Baltimore gets a very strong Grade A+.
The Bengals did a great job of filling their two biggest needs going into this draft, defense and pass catchers. The Bengals landed the top tight end in this draft with their first round selection of Jermaine Gresham. Gresham should give the Bengals passing game the jolt they needed last season. He has all the talent and skill to develop into an elite tight end in the NFL. In the 3rd round the Bengals grabbed Jordan Shipley who should help on special teams and as a slot receiver. He might never be a game breaker, but Shipley filled a big need for Cincinnati. Late in the draft the Bengals got great value by adding receiver Dezmon Briscoe, who was projected to go earlier in the draft. He has excellent size and speed and could develop into a starter. On defense the Bengals added four good prospects, who all have starting potential. 2nd rounder DE Carlos Dunlap, could develop into a top notch defensive end if he ever gets his mental game figured out. Cornerback Brandon Ghee was excellent value for the Bengals in the 3rd round, as were DT Geno Atkins and LB Roderick Muckelroy in the 4th round. All three of whom should be solid rotational players as rookies. The Bengals didn’t address their needs at safety, but filled every other position. While a lot of this draft is based on potential, I think the Bengals made some excellent selections. Grade B+
The Browns had a mixed bag with this draft. They traded away some picks to acquire Sheldon Brown and Chris Gocong and got some nice prospects, but they didn’t fill all of their needs. Joe Haden I thought was a interesting pick, since they had just acquired Sheldon Brown. Even if they do move Brown to safety, the Browns missed out on a chance to trade up for Eric Berry, who would have filled a major need for Cleveland. Considering the fact that the Browns used both their 2nd round pick and 5th round pick on safeties, it is safe to say Cleveland still was looking to upgrade the position. While I think Ward is a solid prospect and Asante offered them nice value in the 5th round, them combined don’t equal Berry, whom I think was the best player in this entire draft. For me, Ward was a bit of an overdraft and it would have made more sense to either trade back to the middle of the round or just outright select Jimmy Clausen with that pick. While they did eventually get their quarterback in the 3rd round, Clausen I feel will be ready sooner and has more upside. Trading up for Hardesty in the 2nd round was a bit of a surprise as well. While I like him as a player, they gave up a good bit to get him (picks that would have made more sense, plus others towards a deal for Berry). I did like both WR Carlton Mitchell and DE Clifton Geathers in the 6th round. I feel both have big upsides and should find roles on the Browns. Overall it seemed like a strange draft for Cleveland, where they addressed the majority of their needs but seemingly at the wrong times with the wrong players. There grade will remain high because of the addition of Brown and the talent they acquired, but I don’t know if this draft can put them back into contention. Grade B-
The Steelers had a very good all-around draft, with the only question mark coming at the lack of drafting a corner early (they did trade for Bryant McFadden, so that did help and is weighted in this grade). Overall I loved their picks of Pouncey and Scott along the offensive line. Both players have nice upside and were good values for where they were drafted. Pouncey should start from day one in Pittsburgh and help solidify that unit. The Steelers addressed their skilled positions well, by adding a pair of receivers and a power back. WR Emmanuel Sanders in the 3rd round, offers good value and could work his way into the rotation. 6th rounder Antonio Brown, I thought was pretty underrated and should develop into a solid player, as well as helping early on in the return game. At running back the Steelers added Jonathan Dwyer, a bruising back out of Georgia Tech. A Dwyer-Mendenhall backfield should be very formidable, and Dwyer was excellent value in the 6th round. On defense the Steelers drafted 3 linebackers, one defensive end, and a corner. Most of those were depth picks but I believe the two rush linebackers they added should give them value. I’m actually higher on 4th rounder Thaddeus Gibson than 2nd rounder Jason Worilds. In fact I think Pittsburgh missed a golden opportunity with their Worilds pick. There were a number of trades at the end of that 2nd round, and if Pittsburgh had moved back they could have gotten additional picks, but also would have been able to grab one of the corners before they were all drafted at the top of Round 3. To me Worilds is more of a 3rd or 4th round prospect, and while he might fit in Pittsburgh I think he could be a bust as well. Gibson was excellent value for the 4th round, and should well continue the tradition of Pittsburgh sack masters at some point in his career. Overall I really liked what the Steelers did, but would have probably rather seen them trade back to the end of the 2nd round and grab a corner over Worilds. Other than that though I don’t have any real complaints or issues about this draft. Grade A-