Friday, May 2, 2008

2008 NFL Draft Recap and Grades - AFC North

Now that I have had enough time to digest last weekend's draft I'd like to give everyone my thoughts and draft grades. What teams helped themselves and which teams flat out FAILED to improve? My opinion is below, referenced with Mel Kiper's grade. How do we match up?

Baltimore Ravens - Yuck. That pretty much sums up my feelings on the Joe Flacco pick. They did a great thing by trading down from 8 to 26 but everything was lost when they traded up to 18 to take the Delaware product. Who would have taken him before 26? Nobody. The Ravens panicked. That will hurt their grade for sure. I like Ray Rice and think he was a nice pick in round two but why Baltimore? They had more glaring weaknesses like CB and WR to take Rice at 55. Patrick Lee , Terrell Thomas, Charles Godfrey, and Chevis Jackson were still available. Landing Tavares Gooden at 71 was good and gave them so depth at LB. Zbikowski suits their defense well but will he end up pushing Dawan Landry or Ed Reed for a starting spot? Zbikowski's stay may only be for the length of his rookie contract. Oniel Cousins at 99 was a great value pick and adds another body to the o-line.

Bottom Line: They dropped the ball on the Flacco pick but got good value in Ray Rice, Tavares Gooden, Tom Zbikowski, and Oniel Cousins. Passing on a young player at CB and depth along the d-line will haunt them.

My Grade: C+

Kiper: B

Cincinnati Bengals - Unlucky. That is one way to describe their first round. They really need some help along the d-line but their three main targets (Glenn Dorsey, Sedrick Ellis, Derrick Harvey) were all snatched up. Keith Rivers was the best pure LB available so I can't fault them in taking him. Perhaps they should have tried to move up with Kansas City or New England? Jerome Simpson was certainly a reach at 46. At that point, DeSean Jackson, Malcolm Kelly, and Limas Sweed were all available. Simpson was a late 2nd rounder at best. Pat Sims was a great value pick at 77. Earlier in the year he was a fringe 1st rounder but his stock dropped throughout the draft evaluation period. Sims could be a real steal. AT 97 the Bengals took another WR. Not a bad idea with Ocho Cinco and Houshmandzadeh unhappy (plus the release of Chris Henry). Simpson was a stretch but Andre Caldwell was value at its finest. As was Anthony Collins at pick 112. He was seen by most as a late 2nd/early 3rd round pick. I don't have much else to say about the late round picks except that Corey Lynch was a good risk at 177 and Mario Urrutia could end up being the best WR the Bengals took.

Bottom Line: They filled all their needs but not with premiere talent. TE and S weren't drafted until the late rounds and DE was completely overlooked. They had one big reach in Simpson but the rest was pretty good. They obviously feel WR was a weakness and I tend to agree.

My Grade: B

Kiper: C+

Cleveland Browns - Well this evaluation will be short. However, I will take into account what the Browns used their draft picks to get. They traded their 1st round pick to Dallas during last years draft to select Brady Quinn. Their 2nd round selection went to Green Bay for Corey Williams. Their 3rd round pick (an Leigh Bodden) went to Detroit for Shaun Rogers. The jury is still out on the Quinn trade. On paper, the Williams and Rogers trades look good. Rogers will be the 3-4 NT and Williams a 3-4 DE that can play the nose. Picks well spent. The Browns addressed a LB need by taking Beau Bell at 104 and Alex Hall at 231. Bell will be tutored by Andra Davis while Hall will work under Willie McGinest. Taking Martin Rucker at 111 was an odd move since they have the young and spectacular Kellen Winslow on the roster. He adds a degree of insurance though. Ahtyba Rubin at 190 was a good value selection; Rubin was rated as a third round prospect. He adds more depth at NT and DE but is raw and needs development. I like Paul Hubbard but Cleveland had needs at CB and RB which weren't addressed. At 191 the Browns could have gone after CBs DeJuan Tribble or Wilrey Fontenot or RBs Lex Hillard or Chauncey Washington.

Bottom Line: When considering what the Browns got for their first three selections - Quinn, Williams, and Rogers - their grade is much higher. Without them they'd be looking at a C. It is a little worrisome that they left the CB position empty.

My Grade: B

Kiper: B+

Pittsburgh Steelers - This is a team that knows how to draft and that couldn't be more evident than their first 2 selections. Rashard Mendenhall (23) and Limas Sweed (53) were amazing value picks. Though RB wasn't a huge need, how could they pass up a guy some people felt was one of the 10 best players available? And it isn't like Willie Parker is a beast. That was a good pick. They may have outdone themselves with Sweed though. Big Ben Roethlisberger wanted and pleaded for a big WR. Is 6'4" 212 big enough? And at pick 53!!! Wow. They went with value over need, need being o-line. That was addressed at pick 130 with Tony Hills, who is versatile enough to play OG or OT. I would have liked to see them at another body along the line. Bruce Davis (88) and Mike Humpal (188) add depth at outside and inside LB, something Pittsburgh is always looking for. Dennis Dixon will be the new Antwaan Randle-El/Kordell Stewart when healthy. That pick doesn't surprise me at all. Ryan Mundy at 194 adds some depth and competition at S.

Bottom Line: Despite not addressing the o-line early and adding only one player there I still like this draft. I would have liked a body along the d-line too but they can get by for another year. Mendenhall and Sweed were great picks.

My Grade: B+

Kiper: B

UP NEXT: AFC South on Monday, May 5th.

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