Draft Grades  

 

AFC North draft grades: Bengals' deep class headlines division

NFL.com analysts Bucky Brooks and Chad Reuter are handing out grades for every team following the 2012 NFL Draft. Click the team name to see each team's entire class.

Baltimore Ravens: B+

Draft Grades & Team Holes
NFL.com analysts Bucky Brooks and Chad Reuter graded the draft classes for each team from the 2012 NFL Draft, and analyst Elliot Harrison addressed what holes remain.

NFC East: 2012 Draft Grades | Remaining Holes
AFC East: 2012 Draft Grades | Remaining Holes
NFC North: 2012 Draft Grades | Remaining Holes
AFC North: 2012 Draft Grades | Remaining Holes
NFC South: 2012 Draft Grades | Remaining Holes
AFC South: 2012 Draft Grades | Remaining Holes
NFC West: 2012 Draft Grades | Remaining Holes
AFC West: 2012 Draft Grades | Remaining Holes

Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta come away with another solid draft class. The Ravens moved out of the first round, but still landed a blue-chip prospect in Courtney Upshaw with the 35th pick. Kelechi Osemele and Bernard Pierce were not only quality additions, but they addressed pressing needs for the team at guard and running back. Christian Thompson and Asa Jackson are small-school standouts with the potential to carve out key roles as backups.

Best pick: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama (Round 2, 35th overall pick).
Upshaw fell out of the first round following disappointing performances at the NFL Scouting Combine and Alabama's pro day, but unimpressive workouts shouldn't detract from his exceptional production on the field. He is a disruptive edge rusher with a relentless motor capable of thriving opposite Terrell Suggs.

Questionable pick: Gino Gradkowski, OG, Delaware (Round 4, 98).
Scouts love Gradkowski's toughness and tenacity, but there are still concerns about his athleticism and ability to lock on in space.

Sleeper pick: Bernard Pierce, RB, Temple (Round 3, 84).
The Temple product is a hard-nosed runner with nimble feet and underrated quickness. He will replace Ricky Williams as Ray Rice's backup and likely steal some carries in short-yardage situations.

Cincinnati Bengals: A

Credit Marvin Lewis for taking several calculated gambles over draft weekend, resulting in the Bengals walking away with a deep and talented draft class. Dre Kirkpatrick immediately steps into the lineup opposite Leon Hall to give the secondary a pair of rangy corners with size and skill. Kevin Zeitler fortifies the Bengals' rebuilt offensive line, while Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones and Orson Charles add more explosiveness to what should be a dynamic aerial attack. If the majority of players in the Bengals' rookie class play near their potential, Cincinnati should emerge as perennial contenders in the AFC.

Best pick: Kevin Zeitler, OG, Wisconsin (Round 1, 27).
It is hard to find a big, physical interior player with the size, strength and agility to dominate within a phone booth and on the move. Zeitler's presence immediately upgrades the Bengals' ground game and will help them move the ball against the AFC's elite defenses.

Questionable pick: Devon Still, DT, Penn State (Round 2, 53).
Still was once regarded as one of the top defensive tackles in college football, but a questionable motor and inconsistent play led to concerns about his ability to produce at the next level.

Sleeper pick: Marvin Jones, WR, Cal (Round 5, 166).
Jones is a silky smooth route runner with great hands. He has the skills and game to become a difference maker as a No. 3 receiver in the Bengals' lineup.

Cleveland Browns: B

Lombardi: Best value picks
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Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert made rebuilding Cleveland's woeful offense their priority in the draft. The Browns were chided for moving up one spot to select Trent Richardson, but they secured a franchise running back with the skills to act as the driving force of the offense. Brandon Weeden appears to be the quarterback of the future, but it could be a short-term option, considering his advanced age (28).

Best pick: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (Round 1, 3).
Richardson is a talented workhorse runner with exceptional all-around skills. He immediately becomes the anchor of the Browns' offense and alleviates the pressure on Colt McCoy and/or Weeden to carry the load.

Questionable pick: Mitchell Schwartz, OT, Cal (Round 2, 37).
The Browns surprisingly picked Schwartz in the second round with Jonathan Martin and Cordy Glenn still on the board. Although he is a gritty blocker adept at moving defenders off the ball, he is not nearly as polished as the aforementioned duo and could struggle against the athletic rushers in the AFC North.

Sleeper pick: Billy Winn, DE, Boise State (Round 6, 35).
One of the most naturally talented pass rushers in the draft, but a questionable work ethic and motor led to a draft-day slide. If he brings the energy on a daily basis, the Browns could have a steal on their hands.

Pittsburgh Steelers: B+

The Steelers' consistent approach to the draft has fueled their remarkable run as perennial AFC contenders. Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin do a terrific job of nabbing smart, tough and physical players ideally suited for the Steelers' system. David DeCastro is certainly built in that mold with his polished game and rugged approach. Mike Adams isn't a traditional Steeler selection, based on his character concerns, but he does have immense talent and potential. If he focuses on his on-field improvement, he could develop into a franchise-caliber left tackle as a pro. Alameda Ta'amu is a rock-solid nose tackle capable of manning the point after Casey Hampton retires.

Best pick: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford (Round 1, 24).
The best interior offensive lineman in the draft. He is tough and physical at the point of attack, but also possesses the agility to block on the move. He shores up an area of weakness and gives the Steelers long-term stability at the position.

Questionable pick: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State (Round 2, 56).
As noted above, this is a risk/reward situation. Adams is a freakishly talented offensive tackle with extraordinary potential, but character concerns scared some teams away. If Adams gets it together off the field, the Steelers could have the best offensive line in football in a few years. If he doesn't, it's a costly miss. Worth the gamble? Quite possibly.

Sleeper pick: Alameda Ta'amu, NT, Washington (Round 4, 109).
Ta'amu's a massive nose tackle with exceptional strength and power. He will serve as an apprentice under Hampton for a year before manning the point for Pittsburgh for the next decade.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks

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