NFL.com analysts Chad Reuter and Bucky Brooks handed out grades for every team following the 2012 NFL Draft. What follows is a look at the four teams that aced the test. Click the team name to see each team's entire class.
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, 27th overall pick).
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.
Scott Pioli has rebuilt the Chiefs by deftly selecting productive, hard-working players in every stage of the draft. This year, Pioli appeared to deviate from the philosophy when he selected Dontari Poe in the first round, despite questions about his productivity at Memphis. However, it's impossible to find 346-pound defenders with this combination of size, strength and athleticism, so it's a worthwhile gamble with the unique upside. Jeff Allen, Donald Stephenson and Devon Wylie are classic "hard hat and lunch pail" guys with the potential to fill key roles as rookies. Cyrus Gray and DeQuan Menzie are promising Day 3 picks. Bottom line: This looks like another stellar class that should keep the team in contention in this division for the foreseeable future.
Best pick: Jeff Allen, T, Illinois (Round 2, 44).
Allen is a versatile offensive lineman with the rare ability to play four positions along the line. He is in line to start at left guard, but could emerge as a swing player capable of filling any role.
Questionable pick: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis (Round 1, 11).
Poe experienced a meteoric rise up the charts after a sensational performance at the NFL Scouting Combine, but his questionable production on tape leads to concerns about his ability to develop into a dominant interior defender as a pro. As mentioned above, though, Poe's rare athleticism/power combination is quite enticing.
Best pick: Dont'a Hightower, LB, Alabama (Round 1, 25).
Hightower is a productive player capable of filling a variety of roles in the Patriots' hybrid defense.
Questionable pick: Tavon Wilson, DB, Illinois (Round 2, 48).
Wilson is not a household name and his second-round selection stunned many observers, but his versatility could prove invaluable in the back end.
Sleeper pick: Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska (Round 7, 224).
Dennard's draft stock fell dramatically after a poor performance at the Senior Bowl and questionable character decisions in recent weeks (including an arrest for allegedly assaulting a police officer just days before the draft). However, he has considerable talent and could carve out a big role as a nickel corner.
Successful teams are supposed to have a difficult time improving through the draft because they pick late in each round. Apparently, no one has told this to the Giants. With the last pick in the first round, they secured a future starting running back in Virginia Tech's David Wilson, who could be a playmaker in the LeSean McCoy mold with more seasoning. Wilson and the rest of his teammates in the backfield were happy to see the Giants pick up two offensive tackles (athletic fourth-round pick Brandon Mosley and long sixth-round project Matt McCants) to strengthen the weakest part of the team.
Best pick: Rueben Randle, WR, LSU (Round 2, 63).
This is the second straight draft in which the Super Bowl champion picked up an excellent wide receiver at the end of the second round (Green Bay selected Randall Cobb in 2011). Randle's smooth running, solid hands and good size/speed combination make him a candidate to see the field regularly in 2012.
Questionable pick: Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech (Round 3, 94).
In terms of value as a player, Hosley is an excellent pick because he has good ball skills and plays bigger than his 5-foot-10, 178-pound frame. Reports of his failing the combine drug test put his maturity in question, though, so it will be interesting to see if he can stay out of trouble while surrounded by the trappings of the NFL lifestyle.