The NFL Draft is one of the greatest events on the NFL calendar, when fans can cheer or sit in amazement at the players selected from the franchise (Seattle?). While teams internally never grade their drafts by anything other than on-field-performance, for the media, it is a different animal. The media has to dissect every pick, and grade the selections. Here are the grades for the AFC North teams from last nights first round. Feel free to let up know whether you agree with our assessment on our facebook page or at twitter @Steelers_101.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Grade A
The Steelers did what they do, sit back and let the draft fall to them. Incredibly, one of the top prospects in this years draft Stanford OG David DeCastro fell in their lap. More importantly, it was definitely a position of need. Steelers’ fans should love DeCastro, a mauler with a nasty disposition and enough ability to come in and compete day one. Big, 6-5, 316 pounds, he is coming from the pro-style offense at Stanford and is already experienced at protecting a franchise quarterback. Why, did he fall, Good questions as most prognosticators had him coming off the board in the top 15 selections. The only negative that experts discussed last night was his position of offensive guard, as they usually go undervalued in the draft. Yes, the Steelers got lucky, but they hit it out of the park.
Cincinnati Bengals – Grade B-
The Bengals had two selections in the first round and had a chance to grab some impact players. While the players they selected were solid, there will be questions about how they will fit into their schemes and match-up with opponents in the AFC North. With their first selection (number 17), they took a cornerback in Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick.
There is no question Kirkpatrick is a talented player, once even projected as a potential top ten pick, but uneven play and a lack of pure speed drove his stock down. Yes, he is a physical tackler and experienced in a pro-style defense, the question will remain if he has enough size and speed to match-up against opposing teams number one receivers.
After trading back with the New England Patriots to number 27 (and adding a third round selection), they grabbed Wisconsin Kevin Zeitler. Zeitler is a mauler, who fits well in a zone-blocking scheme. He is strong, physical and technically sound, but he may lack some of the athleticism of some of the other guard prospects in the draft. He was a late riser in the draft process, and a solid selection for the Bengals.
Cleveland Browns – Grade C
As many in Cleveland had speculated, this was an important draft for the Browns and they had to deliver with some solid talent. They did that with their first selection in Alabama RB Trent Richardson, the top back in the draft. Yes, he is talented and will be a great fit in their offense with his combination of speed, power, receiving ability and athleticism, clearly a three-down back, but how much was that ability worth? In a league where running back by committee is taking over, can a team that has many holes really give up three mid-round picks to swap from number four to number three? By doing that Richardson cannot just be good, he must be great.
With their second selection at number 22, the Browns passed on improving their offensive line or adding another playmaker on the outside, by selecting Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden. Yes, Weeden is talented and has all of the skill set needed to be successful, but he is 28-years old (29 at the start of the season) and is coming from a spread passing attack. There is no doubt he will be their opening day starter, but will he be ready?
Baltimore Ravens – Incomplete
The Ravens were the only team in the AFC North that did not make a selection in round one, deciding instead to trade down and out of the first round.
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