Grading the Draft: AFC North

The AFC North has a lot of team's on the "verge"; on the verge of making the playoffs, on the verge of making it to the conference title game and on the verge of making the Super Bowl. So did any organization help themselves enough through the draftto take the next step up?


Devastated by salary cap casualties the Ravens went into the draft with plenty of needs though just two years removed from winning the Super Bowl.  On of those areas was safety and they addressed it selecting Edward Reed in round one.  Reed brings big play abilities and leadership to the Baltimore defense.  More than anything else this pick could be quite telling of what Baltimore thinks of last year's second round choice Gary Baxter; not much.  Second round choice Anthony Weaver was good value a should be an excellent fit for the Ravens new three-four defensive alignment while Ron Johnson was a solid pick in round four as he brings size and youth to wide receiver.  Terry Jones Jr. offers a compliment at tight end for Todd Heap and to their credit, the Ravens did not panic and select a running back early in the draft as many thought they should, yet came away with a solid prospect in sixth round pick Chester Taylor. 


The team that fooled everyone as Butch Davis tabbed William Green in the first frame after most all thought TJ Duckett would be the pick.  Green has a lot of upside to his game but almost an equal amount of downside risk.  Andre Davis is another with a lot of potential for the future both as a receiver and return specialist and could be a steal if he starts to kick it in gear.  Third round pick Melvin Fowler rounds out the first day and upgrades the offensive line as he is a center/guard whose best football lay ahead of him.  Linebacker Ben Taylor and tight end Darnell Sanders, both selected in the fourth frame, are almost a contradiction amongst each other.  Taylor is a hard working, developed linebacker and a low risk prospect that should be a "nice" football player at the next level.  Sanders on the other hand is a top athlete but only a mediocre football player that must step it up if he's to meet his upper most limit, which could very well be the sky.  


Draft day is always an adventure for the Bengals and this year started off no differently for the organization.  While a young offensive linemen was in the works, taking Levi Jones with the tenth pick of the draft may have been a little early.  It was not as bad a reach as many are making it out to be aand Jones is a talented prospect that can effectively play four different positions on the line.  Safety Lamont Thompson was a solid pick in the second frame and immediately improves the Bengals pass cover defense.  Matt Schobel is a solid athlete that could fill a need at tight end if he improves his football skills while both Marquand Manuel and Joey Evans were good choices in the last two frames and at the very least will be back-up players that help out on special teams.  


The Steelers came into the draft with only minor needs and addressed one of them with Kendall Simmons, a versatile prospect that can play as many as three different positions on the offensive line, depending on whom you speak with.  They may have hit pay-dirt with second choice Antwaan Randle-El, a skilled offensive prospect that was moving up draft boards since late January.  Don't be shocked if Randle-El is the Steelers best pass catcher next season.  Chris Hope improves the talent at safety while Larry Foote is a perfect fit as a three-four linebacker.  Verron Hayes runs with great intensity and can be lined up at several spots while Lee Mays was worth a late round choice.  Defensive end Brett Keisel is also a good fit for the Steeler defense.  A solid job by Pittsburgh who got value throughout all seven rounds.

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