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2012 Draft Recap: AFC North

This is the 3rd of 8 divisional recaps.

AFC East Recap
AFC South Recap

Cincinnati Bengals – Despite having the smallest scouting department in the NFL, the Bengals have done a pretty good job drafting the last few years. 2012 was an important draft for them if they want to build on a successful 2011 campaign and remain as a contender in a tough division. On paper, the Bengals made out extremely well though their draft strategy seemed to be to just draft the #1 player remaining on Mel Kiper’s big board at each selection. Almost every pick represented great value on paper, though trading down in the 1st and passing on David DeCastro (only to see him go to a divisional rival) was questionable. Dre Kirkpatrick fits perfectly with the Bengals scheme and addresses a position of questionable depth. Kevin Zeitler isn’t an exciting prospect but projects as a quality NFL guard. Mohammed Sanu and Brandon Thompson were both guys I felt were overrated as 1st or early 2nd rounders, but in the 3rd round they were nice pickups. Devon Still, Orson Charles and Marvin Jones were also guys who I thought could have gone a round higher than the Bengals picked them. George Iloka probably won’t amount to much but his size and special teams value are enough to give a long look in camp. It will be very interesting to watch this draft class and see how it plays out. One has to think that some of these “big name” prospects who were pre-draft darlings slid for a reason. Even in undrafted free agency, the Bengals stayed true to their strategy of adding well-known prospects, adding mercurial and controversial Vontaze Burfict. Kashif Moore and Julian Miller were both guys I liked as sleepers and could find their way onto the roster.

Cleveland Browns – The Browns got off to what I feel was a bad start, trading up to pick #3 to guarantee Trent Richardson seemed unnecessary. It’s true that the Vikings could have moved the 3rd pick to a team who would have taken the talented RB, but I’m of the belief that no RB is worth taking that early in the draft – especially for a bad team like Cleveland who figures to be a few years away from being serious contenders. Brandon Weeden later in the 1st has drawn a ton of criticism due to his age, but the Browns desperately need to upgrade from Colt McCoy sooner rather than later. If Weeden is a total failure, the Browns will be in a good position to land a top QB prospect next year. The rest of the Browns draft until the 6th round looks suspect. Mitchell Schwartz is a solid prospect but the Browns passed on a lot of good players at bigger positions of need. John Hughes was a downright bizarre selection, showing almost nothing in college to warrant drafting in the top 200 picks. Travis Benjamin doesn’t have the hands or ability to beat press coverage to ever be more than a #3 or #4 WR and isn’t the high-quality weapon the Browns receiving corps has been missing for many years. James-Michael Johnson and Emmanuel Acho were nice value picks and could add depth to the Browns mediocre LB corps. 6th rounder Billy Winn was a guy I liked as early as the upper 2nd round and his slide down the board was one of the more curious storylines during the draft. He could be a real steal, depending on what led to his fall down the board. Brad Smelley is a nice developmental H-Back/FB who is a natural fit for the Browns scheme.

Pittsburgh Steelers – The Steelers, like the Patriots and a few other perennial contenders, managed to improve themselves without having to try very hard. A team in desperate need of OL help got the best guard prospect in a decade – David DeCastro – to fall into their laps in the 1st round and then managed to snag the overrated but intriguing Mike Adams in the 2nd. Chris Rainey later on could be a nice complement to Rashard Mendenhall and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him take Mewelde Moore’s spot on the roster. I’m not high on Alameda Ta’amu, but in the 4th round he offers a lot of value even if he is never anything more than a reliable backup. Sean Spence was an odd pick, given the Steelers scheme but he could fit as a pass-down LB and special teams ace. Grabbing Marquis Maze and Brandon Lindsey as undrafted players was a coup for Pittsburgh, though both face uphill battles to make the fairly stacked Steelers roster.

Baltimore Ravens – The Ravens, reportedly as a result of losing out to the Patriots on Dont’a Hightower, managed to trade down into the 2nd round and get a guy they had been linked to for awhile – Courtney Upshaw. Like 2010 2nd rounder Sergio Kindle, the Ravens are hoping Upshaw can add some youth to an aging edge-rusher position. With Terrell Suggs possibly out for the year – and Achilles tendon injuries tend to be career-altering – Upshaw will be pressed into duty early and often in Baltimore. Whether or not Upshaw can provide much in the way of a pass rush at the NFL level remains to be seen, but I’m doubtful he can be more than a 4 sack per year kind of guy. Kelechi Osemele could pay dividends as a late 2nd rounder, he certainly had the talent to go higher despite questions about his work ethic. 3rd rounder Bernard Pierce and 5th rounder Asa Jackson were guys I thought were undervalued going into the draft and could be nice steals for Baltimore. Tommy Streeter fell to the 6th round for a reason, and likely won’t make it in the NFL. Gino Gradkowski in the 4th was a headscratcher, one has to wonder what Ozzie Newsome and company see in him. QB John Brantley and DT Ishmaa’ily Kitchen are among the more interesting undrafted players that the Ravens signed – both could make it in the NFL but will need time on a practice squad most likely.

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22 Days Until The Draft: 3 Players Who Will Go Earlier Than You Think

April 4, 2012 Leave a comment

Just over three weeks until the 2012 NFL Draft and if you’re like me, you’re probably finishing up the touches on your draft board (or spreadsheet). Before you finish up your rankings though, here are 3 prospects who will probably go before you expect them to:

 

1. Shea McClellin – DE/OLB – Boise State – Tony Pauline already tipped a lot of folks off about McClellin’s first day chances and I am expecting the versatile edge player to come off the board before the Patriots make their 2nd selection (31st overall). The spread of sub-package heavy defenses – many teams play sub upwards of 65% of the time – make versatile pass rushers like McClellin a hot commodity.  However, the reason he will go higher than you expect is not his ability to get to the QB but his ability to drop into coverage that he displayed at the Senior Bowl. With “move” tight ends becoming an increasing trend in NFL offenses, defensive coordinators will love McClellin’s coverage potential. He’s not the most experienced coverage LB, and he definitely needs some technique refinement, but he flashes good hips and footwork. He will draw comparisons to a lot of edge players (both past and present) but the guy he reminds me a bit of is Tedy Bruschi. Like the former Patriots LB, McClellin is a guy who can line up all over the field but will probably start his career as a situational edge player – playing both standing up and with his hand down. Also similar to Bruschi, I see McClellin as a long-term “tweener” between ILB and OLB in a 3-4 alignment whose college passrushing will never quite translate to the pros. He’ll probably top out around 5-6 sacks but be immensely valuable as  a jack of all trades in a team’s front 7.

 

2. Doug Martin – RB – Boise State – McClellin’s teammate at college, Martin is the 2nd back on my board. That’s not to say he has the 2nd highest (behind Trent Richardson) upside. Martin doesn’t strike me as a truly elite back who will rack up All Pro or Pro Bowl appearances. However, what he lacks in flash and ceiling he makes up for in versatility and completeness. No other back, outside of Richardson, has as well rounded of a skill set as Martin. Unlike some other 2nd tier RB’s, Martin has good hands out of the backfield and can hold up in pass protection. Similarly, while other 2nd tier RB’s might have better 40 yard times, Martin’s vision is amongst the best in this class. While a late 1st round pick is probably too rich for a back like Martin, it wouldn’t surprise me if some team trades up from the early 2nd round to get him. Worst case scenario, I don’t see him getting past the early stages of round 2.

 

3. Marvin Jones – WR – Cal – This year’s draft is positively loaded with 2nd tier WR’s. There could be a nearly unprecedented number of receivers come off the board in rounds 2 and 3. One guy who is getting lost in the shuffle a bit is Marvin Jones. He’s not the best physical specimen, a bit wiry in frame, but he has an excellent (and underrated) NFL skill set. He comes from a pro style offense and has can run option routes – something many young receivers need time to learn. His hands are amongst the best in the draft and he runs fairly clean routes, coming in and out of his breaks with the crispness needed to separate from NFL defenders. He isn’t without flaws obviously, and his lack of strength could really hurt his chances of playing on the outside in the NFL. However, as a slot receiver or in a spread style offense, he could be a dangerous threat on short passes and quick slants. He’s not afraid to take a shot over the middle and can hang on the ball even after a big hit. He also has the speed to slip get behind a defense if they don’t jam him at the line. A team like the Patriots or Packers would probably love to grab Jones in round 3, but he will be gone by the time the end of that round comes along. I expect him to be a top 75 pick who could go as early as late round 2.

 

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