Continuing our Draft Grades series, let’s take a look at the AFC North.
Baltimore Ravens: A
The Ravens have consistently been one of the best teams at navigating the NFL Draft since they came into the league in 1996. This year was no different. Baltimore gets an automatic bump in their grade after trading a 3rd and 4th round pick for Anquan Boldin, but that’s not what earned them the A grade.
General Manager Ozzie Newsome and his team skillfully worked the draft, getting back the picks they spent for the big time receiver from Arizona. According to one of our sources, Baltimore was set to take Dez Bryant with the 25th pick until Dallas moved up to draft him. At that point, Baltimore even seriously considered taking Sergio Kindle with the 25th pick, but the trade offer from Denver was too good to pass up.
After trading into the top of the 2nd round, there was a tiny bit of drama when the Ravens were about to make their pick. The Patriots traded up one spot in front of Baltimore, but failed to get their card turned in before their time ran out and Baltimore was able to get the pick in. The Ravens were concerned that New England was trading up for Sergio Kindle, so when draft officials allowed New England to still make their pick, the Ravens were relieved to see that they had selected Rob Gronkowski and the Ravens still were able to grab the pass rusher from Texas. Baltimore continued the bolstering of it’s defense by taking the massive nose tackle, Terrence Cody in the 2nd round.
The Ravens also answered a question about the health and long term plans for Todd Heap by taking 2 tight ends with their next two picks in Ed Dickson of Oregon and Dennis Pitta of BYU, adding even more weapons for their young quarterback Joe Flacco. Baltimore added wide receiver David Reed from Utah, who will more than likely be returning kicks for the Ravens this season, and defensive lineman Arthur Jones, who could have been a high second round pick if not for injuries during his senior season. The Ravens finished their draft by taking Morehouse offensive tackle Ramon Harewood who has tremendous upside, but is very raw.
In looking at the value of the Ravens selections, it’s hard to not give them an A grade. 5 of their 7 selections were all in our top 100 prospects overall and their ability to move around in the draft and still get high quality players is amazing. The only piece missing from the Ravens draft was a cornerback, but word is the team may be looking to bring in a veteran corner through trade or free agency around training camp. By adding some quality defensive lineman and pass rushers, the Ravens also are following the philosophy of the Pittsburgh Steelers by saying that your corners don’t have to cover long if your pass rush gets to the quarterback quickly.
Round 2 (pick 43) Sergio Kindle – DE/OLB – Texas
Round 2 (pick 57) Terrence Cody – DT – Alabama
Round 3 (pick 70) Ed Dickson – TE – Oregon
Round 4 (pick 114) Dennis Pitta – TE – BYU
Round 5 (pick 156) David Reed – WR – Utah
Round 5 (pick 126) Arthur Jones – DT – Syracuse
Round 6 (pick 194) Ramon Harewood – OT – Morehouse
Cincinnati Bengals: B-
The Benglas quietly had a very good draft this year and not many people are talking about it. They started with a bang by grabbing the top tight end in the draft, Jermaine Gresham from Oklahoma. While the rest of their draft didn’t really have many “big name” players, they certainly collected several high quality guys that when put together in the right scheme, could be very effective.
The Benglas have been known for taking players that have some flaws…either on or off the field. This year was no exception. By taking Florida defensive end, Carlos Dunlap, the Bengals are taking a bit of a risk. Dunlap has the ability to dominate on the field, but has some character concerns and appears lazy on film. However, as a rotational pass rusher, he may actually see his potential.
Cincy grabbed a nice addition to their wide receiver corp in Jordan Shipley. For a team that already has Chad Ochocinco and signed Antonio Bryant in free agency, Shipley will make an ideal slot receiver. Not to mention the team added a very solid receiving tight end in Gresham, Carson Palmer has to be a happy man.
The Bengals also added some “quiet talent” to their defense in Georgia DT Geno Atkins and Texas LB Roddrick Muckelroy. Both players are good, but not spectacular but the Bengals won’t be asking them to carry the load. Added to the rotation, both Atkins and Muckelroy will make nice additions to the team, and they were obtained at a low price in round 4.
Round 1 (pick 21) Jermaine Gresham – TE – Oklahoma
Round 2 (pick 54) Carlos Dunlap – DE – Florida
Round 3 (pick 84) Jordan Shipley – WR – Texas
Round 3 (pick 96) Brandon Ghee – CB – Wake Forest
Round 4 (pick 120) Geno Atkins – DT – Georgia
Round 4 (pick 131) Roddrick Muckelroy – LB – Texas
Round 5 (pick 152) Otis Hudson – OG – Eastern Illinois
Round 6 (pick 191) Dezmon Briscoe – WR – Kansas
Round 7 (pick 228) Reggie Stephens – OL – Iowa State
Cleveland Browns: B
I desperately wanted to give the Browns an A grade, but upon closer inspection, I just couldn’t. Cleveland’s new regime in the front office needed to get a big bang out of this draft and I’m not sure they did. However, I will certainly give credit where credit is due.
First off, the Browns went with the best player available in the first round in Joe Haden. Ideally, Cleveland would have loved to see Eric Berry fall into their lap, but the Chiefs ruined that dream. However, Haden is still an upgrade for their defense and will be very effective across from Eric Wright.
When Colt McCoy began his tumble down the draft board, I, like many, assumed that Cleveland would snatch him up in the second round. Instead, the Browns took a safety and a running back with some serious injury concerns. While TJ Ward and Montario Hardesty are both good players, Ward was clearly over-drafted and there were other safeties that could be had later in the draft that could fill a need as well. According to a league source, Hardesty failed a few teams’ medical evaluations, which really makes me question his knees even more.
So while I take off points for the Browns by not taking Colt McCoy at the start of round 2, I give them points back for showing the patience to get McCoy in the 3rd round. Either the Browns front office knew that McCoy was going to be on the board for a while, or they got lucky. Either way, they ended up with a quality quarterback for their west coast offense that won’t need to start on day one…or even year one. McCoy will benefit greatly from sitting behind Jake Delhomme for a year and learning the finer points of the position.
The rest of the Browns draft was rather unspectacular, but they did get some quality players. The team added a hard hitting safety in Larry Asante from Nebraska. Asante may be primarily a special teamer at first, but based on the health of TJ Ward, he could get a shot to crack the starting lineup before he knows it. Cleveland was also able to get one of our top 100 overall players, South Florida WR Carlton Mitchell, in the 6th round of the draft. Either the Browns got a high quality player at a bargain price, or we over-valued Mitchell greatly.
Round 1 (pick 7) Joe Haden – CB – Florida
Round 2 (pick 38) TJ Ward – S – Oregon
Round 2 (pick 59) Montario Hardesty – RB – Tennessee
Round 3 (pick 85) Colt McCoy – QB – Texas
Round 3 (pick 92) Shawn Lauvao – OL – Arizona State
Round 5 (pick 160) Larry Asante – S – Nebraska
Round 6 (pick 177) Carlton Mitchell – WR – South Florida
Round 8 (pick 186) Clifton Geathers – DE – South Carolina
Pittsburgh Steelers: B+
The Steelers are another team that had a solid, but unspectacular draft. With serious needs along the offensive line, Pittsburgh was able to grab the top rated interior prospect in the draft, Maurkice Pouncey. Pouncey should be a day one starter at either guard or center, so he was certainly a solid first round pick.
The Steelers proved that you can never have too many pass rushers by taking Jason Worilds from Virginia Tech in round 2 and Thaddeus Gibson from Ohio State in round 4. With the talent and depth at the outside linebacker position, it’s hard to say that the Steelers won’t have the best pass rush on every down in the NFL.
Pittsburgh also had some concerns at the wide receiver position after trading Santonio Holmes. The Steelers also have yet to see anything from Limas Sweed and with his recent injury, Sweed’s time in Pittsburgh may be over. Pittsburgh grabbed SMU wideout Emmanuel Sanders, who saw his stock rise after a solid Shrine Game week. However, the Steelers passed on several talented receivers in multiple rounds, and would have been given a higher grade if they would have taken one of those receivers, maybe even in addition to Sanders.
The Steelers also got what might be the steal of the draft in Jonathan Dwyer in the 6th round. Dwyer was given an early 2nd round grade by most members of the media, including us, and he absolutely tumbled down the board on draft weekend. After letting Willie Parker go in free agency, the Steelers added another quality “between-the-tackles” back to rotate with Mendenhall.
Round 1 (pick 18) Maurkice Pouncey – C/G – Florida
Round 2 (pick 52) Jason Worilds – DE/OLB – Virginia Tech
Round 3 (pick 82) Emmanuel Sanders – WR – SMU
Round 4 (pick 116) Thaddeus Gibson – DE/OLB – Ohio State
Round 5 (pick 151) Chris Scott – OT – Tennessee
Round 5 (pick 164) Crezdon Butler – CB – Clemson
Round 5 (pick 166) Stevenson Sylvester – LB – Utah
Round 6 (pick 188) Jonathan Dwyer – RB – Georgia Tech
Round 6 (pick 195) Antonio Brown – WR – Central Michigan
Round 7 (pick 242) Doug Worthington – DT – Ohio State
Check back soon to see draft grades for the rest of the NFL teams.