Grading the 2014 NFL Draft: Ravens, Steelers top AFC North
NFLDraftScout.com takes a division-by-division look at which teams fared best in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Grading an NFL Draft immediately after it occurs is akin to giving your compliments to the chef based on the menu rather than actually waiting to taste the food. It will take at least three years before we can truly assess how the 32 NFL teams fared over the weekend. But waiting is no fun. As such, let's take a take at which teams appear to have done the best job of filling needs and building for the future via the seven rounds of the 2014 draft.
Ozzie Newsome rarely has flashy drafts but when your roster is stacked that's going to happen. His 2014 class is another example of solid additions that re-stock the shelves at important positions. CJ Mosley offers the instincts, athleticism and physicality and instantly upgrades the defense. Defensive linemen Timmy Jernigan and Brent Urban are tough run-stuffers with upside and safety Terrence Brooks could be the centerfielder to complement last year's first round in-the-box hitter Matt Elam. I also like the upside of TE Crockett Gillmore and RB Lorenzo Taliaferro. Don't be surprised if WR Michael Campanaro makes this club as a slot receiver. Grade: B+
It seems years ago that Cincinnati was jokingly referred to as the "Bungles" as the team has evolved into one of the better drafting teams in the league, consistently filling gaps in the roster via cheaper college prospects, rather than over-paying veterans. Darqueze Dennard may lack the flashy athleticism to get scouts excited but he's a pro-ready corner who plays with toughness and poise against the pass and run. Jeremy Hill is a tough, downhill runner who will complement last year's pickup of air-back Gio Bernard quite well and defensive end Will Clarke offers the length and blue-collar work ethic to do the same with last year's gamble on Margus Hunt. AJ McCarron will get the press but interior lineman Russell Bodine is the one who could make an impact in Cincinnati as he has the grit and strength to push for time at center or guard. Grade: B
My buddy Will Brinson characterized general manager Ray Farmer's first draft as Cleveland's general manager well - in a vacuum, this was a nice class. Though I have some concerns about Johnny Manziel's ability to throw from the pocket consistently (especially on a gusty field), he will be protected by the same caliber of left tackle play in Pro Bowler Joe Thomas as he received with Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews while at Texas A&M. Unfortunately, Manziel won't have a dynamic pass-catcher in Cleveland like Mike Evans to bail him out as the reported suspension of wideout Josh Gordon was met with an inexplicable ignoring of the position throughout the draft by the Browns. The trade down from No. 4 to No. 9 netted Cleveland what could very well wind up being a high first round pick a year from now and I do like the talent added in playmaking cornerbacks Justin Gilbert and Pierre Desir, versatile and tough offensive lineman Joel Bitonio and underrated athletes Christian Kirksey and Terrance West but five games into the 2014 season, long-suffering Browns fans may be wondering what if the Browns had just selected Sammy Watkins (or Mike Evans) at No. 4 overall and rather than trading back. Grade: C
Given that head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert traveled the country touring Pro Day workouts during the off-season, it was clear that Pittsburgh realized that this was a critical draft for the rejuvenation of an aging franchise. I believe their dedication paid off with one of the year's better draft classes - at least on paper. Linebacker Ryan Shazier, versatile weapon Dri Archer and wideout Martavis Bryant offer pure explosiveness. Defensive linemen Stephon Tuitt and Daniel McCullers have first round traits, as well. Linebacker Jordan Zumwalt was born to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers, bringing a physical nature that will endear him to coaches and fans, alike. There is a lot to like about the Steelers' selections but with a few of these players struggling to play up to expectations throughout their career, there is some boom or bust factor here that must be acknowledged, as well. Grade: B+
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