Sunday, April 29, 2012

Grading the NFL Draft: AFC North

With the AFC East complete, I turn my attention North. Last season, the AFC North had three teams make the playoffs. With a successful 2012 draft, the AFC North looks to continue their success and send three teams back to the playoffs. Let's take a look at each team's draft and assign them a grade:

Baltimore Ravens - The Ravens absolutely knocked it out of the park with their first three picks. No one would have foreseen Courtney Upshaw falling to the second round, but he did and the Ravens got a first round talent, with the third pick of the second round. With their second pick in the second round the Ravens added Kelechi Osemele, who happens to have one of the best names in the draft (so great, I may have to name my first born Kelechi). He should start at guard this year for the Ravens and could be moved to right tackle before the year ends. Their third round pick of Bernard Pierce should help keep Ray Rice healthy by giving him some plays off. Sixth round pick Tommy Streeter could be a late round steal as he has some great speed and hands. The rest of their draft seems devoid of starters but that may change by the end of the year. Grade: B

Cincinnati Bengals - The Bengals had one of, if not, the best draft of every team in the NFL. They also had a hilarious draft. Cincinnati actually drafted based on a pattern. Defense, then offense. They did this for every pick from the first round to the sixth round. I do not know if this was just coincidence, but it is hilarious nonetheless. Their first six players could all become starters by the beginning of the season. Dre Kirkpatrick (1st round), and Kevin Zeitler (2nd round) will definitely be contributing throughout the year. Kirkpatrick is an interesting prospect as some saw him as the second best back in the draft. Kirkpatrick is a hard hitting corner back who should help the Bengals as they face Big Ben, Joe Flacco and Brandon Weeden (assuming he starts). Devon Still (round 2) and Brandon Thompson (round 3) should compete for a starting defensive tackle job and both could be starting in the middle of the line for Cincinnati by week one. Mohamed Sanu and Orson Charles will give Andy Dalton more offensive weapons. While I am not too high on Sanu, grabbing him in the third round could certainly be a steal. It is hard to find a bad pick anywhere in the Bengals' draft. Grade: A+

Cleveland Browns: I think the Browns hit with their first three picks. Trent Richardson is going to be a star in this league and Brandon Weeden, while older, is certainly capable of starting in the NFL. Mitchell Schwartz will be able to protect Weeden or any other Browns quarterback for a long time. However, after the first two rounds it is hard to find anyone that may start for the Browns. Inside Linebacker James-Michael Johnson (never trust a man with two first names), and Billy Wynn are intriguing prospects who should compete for a starting job but do not stand out as anything too special. Ryan Miller and Emmanuel Acho are interesting but will most likely only become depth players. The rest of the Browns draft is nothing special. Grade: B-

Pittsburgh Steelers: Ah, yes one of the other teams that the media loves to gush over. I thought it was hilarious when ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi said "they don't have backups, they have starters-in-waiting". Not only is Bruschi one of the worst analysts on television but he obviously does not watch the Steelers. Pittsburgh hit on their first four picks, but looked to stop caring about the draft after that. David DeCastro falling to them in the first round may have been one of the luckiest moments of the draft. If Mike Adams can stay away from the marijuana (and Big Ben), he could be a starting tackle for the Steelers. Sean Spence and Alameda Ta'amu will most likely not start next year but could start if someone gets injured or they have a good pre-season. I think it is interesting that the Steelers did not address the inside linebacker position at all during this draft as they released James Farrior and are now relying on Lawrence Timmons. I think the Steelers got three starters out of this draft. Grade: B

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