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2015 NFL DRAFT
Senior NFL Columnist

Draft Grades: Bengals' haul gets high praise; Saints flunk the weekend

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The Cincinnati Bengals have been the punch line for a lot of jokes, many of those aimed at owner/general manager Mike Brown.

The Bengals have a skimpy scouting staff and other teams privately laugh at how they refuse to spend bigger on scouting.

Maybe Mike Brown has it right. After all, his team had the best draft of any of the 32 NFL teams this year.

I gave the Bengals an A+, a three-day pick-a-thon that netted them a lot of good football players. It helped that they had extra picks because of their trade of Carson Palmer to the Raiders last year, but it's what they did with all those picks that truly impressed.

I see the Bengals adding 10 solid football players, all with a chance to make the team, even sixth-round running back Dan Herron from Ohio State. Top pick Dre' Kirkpatrick will likely be a Week 1 starter while several others have a chance to start.

That's dominating a draft. Here are big props to Mike Brown and the Bengals, who might be laughing at the rest of the league now.

Arizona Cardinals

Best pick: Third-round corner Jamell Fleming will help fill a big need with the departure of Richard Marshall. He was a good player for Oklahoma.

Questionable move: I didn't like the Michael Floyd pick in the first round. He doesn't run well enough to warrant that pick. And they had a lot of other needs.

Third-day gem: I like San Diego State quarterback Ryan Lindley, a player they took in the sixth round. He has a big arm and can make all the throws. If he gains some consistency, he has a chance.

Analysis: The Cardinals have offensive-line issues and waited until the fourth round to take Bobby Massie to address it. I didn't like the Floyd pick, which dampens this grade. They did some good things later.

Grade: C+

Atlanta Falcons

Best pick: Landing center Peter Konz it the second round fills a need with Todd McClure getting up in years. Konz can also battle for the right guard spot.

Questionable move: Taking Lamar Holmes in the third round. Yes, he has some athletic ability, but there were some more polished options on the board.

Third-day gem: Fifth-round pick Jonathan Massaquoi has speed off the edge. He might take some adjusting coming from Troy, but that's the same school that produced DeMarcus Ware.

Analysis: They traded their first-round pick to get Julio Jones last year. That forced them to wait until the second round to pick. Give them credit for addressing their line needs. Jones is the key to this draft. He has to be a star to make the trade worthwhile.

Grade: C

Baltimore Ravens

Best pick: They traded out of the first and still ended up with a player they really liked in Courtney Upshaw. That's great value for him in the second round.

Questionable move: They took Iowa State tackle Kelechi Osemele in the second round and he will likely project to guard. I think they needed to get a guy who they know could play tackle.

Third-day gem: Sixth-round pick Tommy Streeter is a long wide receiver from Miami who has the speed to get vertical. He didn't always produce as expected at Miami, but he has the tools.

Analysis: One thing about the Ravens is when they are done drafting you know that Ozzie Newsome will find good football players. They always seem to do so. Moving out of the first and landing Upshaw was a nice move. They added some nice third-day pieces as well.

Grade: B+

Buffalo Bills

Best pick: I really liked the Bills getting Cordy Glenn in the second round. He had first-round ability and should be an immediate starter at left tackle.

Questionable move: They took North Carolina State receiver T.J. Graham in the third round in large part because he can fly. But he dropped a lot of passes in college and that might have been too high.

Third-day gem: Florida State tackle Zebrie Sanders was a nice value pick in the fifth round. He was a quality starter for the Seminoles.

Analysis: The Bills landed a top cover player in the first round in Stephon Gilmore and then waited to take a tackle in Glenn in the second. It proved to be a good strategy. Both players should start. They added some other nice players in the later rounds. The one concern is Graham.

Grade: B

Carolina Panthers

Best pick: Fourth-round receiver Joe Adams is a nice player. He has the look of a good slot receiver.

Questionable move: It's quibbling, but taking Amini Silatolu in the second round over some bigger-school lineman is a risk. I like the kid, though, so I am nitpicking.

Third-day gem: Fifth-round corner Josh Norman comes from small-school Coastal Carolina. He impressed during the season, but didn't have a great Senior Bowl week. Some scouts think it was too big for him. But he has the ability if he can adjust.

Analysis: General manager Marty Hurney had a heck of a draft. It started with linebacker Luke Kuechly in the first round and it continued all the way through it. I love Adams and Norman on the final day.

Grade: B+

Chicago Bears

Best pick: Third-round safety Brandon Hardin has played corner, so he has range. He missed the 2010 season with a shoulder injury, but is healthy now. Rangy safeties are in vogue now.

Questionable move: I didn't like the pick of receiver Alshon Jeffery in the second round. He is too much like Brandon Marshall and doesn't run well enough.

Third-day gem: Isaiah Frey is a corner from Nevada who faced some good passing teams in college. He isn't a great man player, but might be a nice nickel corner.

Analysis: They took Shea McClellin in the first round and he will play left end, although a lot of scouts saw him as a 3-4 outside rusher. I think he'll be fine as an end. I didn't like the Jeffrey pick and they didn't get a lot the rest of the way. I do like Hardin.

Grade: C

Cincinnati Bengals

Best pick: It wasn't a sexy pick, but taking Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler in the first round will pay off. He's a tough, aggressive player. Should be a rookie starter.

Questionable move: I thought they should have looked for a speed receiver instead of taking Muhammad Sanu in the third round.

Third-day gem: Cal receiver Marvin Jones might end up being better than Sanu. Jones isn't a burner, but he knows how to get open and run routes.

Analysis: What's not to like? The list of 10 is impressive. They acted like they owned the draft. Heck, they did.

Grade: A+

Cleveland Browns

Best pick: Second-round pick Mitchell Schwartz is a tough, nasty player who will start at right tackle. Scouts I talked to loved this kid. I agree. Nice pick.

Questionable move: Taking Brandon Weeden in the first round. That was a reach. Is he that much better than Colt McCoy? And he'll be 29 in October.

Third-day gem: Fourth-round receiver Travis Benjamin went to Miami as a huge recruit. He didn't put up big numbers, but he has explosive ability.

Analysis: The Browns had a bad first round in my mind, which knocks their draft down. They had two first-round picks, and traded up to get Trent Richardson. I just don't see how trading up for a back is a good thing -- even a good back like Richardson. Taking Weeden is a real reach. They did bounce back some, but I don't like the way they started.

Grade: C-

Dallas Cowboys

Best pick: Trading up to land corner Morris Claiborne was a great move for the Cowboys. They landed the best cover player in the draft with a sharp move up to get him.

Questionable move: Not much to quibble with here, other than not addressing the depth issues on the offensive line with any of their picks.

Third-day gem: Fourth-round pick Kyle Wilber has some pass-rush ability and could end up as a special-teams player.

Analysis: It's hard to argue with moving up to get Claiborne, who gives the Cowboys their best cover player in years. They did give up a second-round pick to do it, but it made sense. I like third-round end Tyrone Crawford as well.

Grade: B+

Denver Broncos

Best pick: I really like third-down back Ronnie Hillman from San Diego State. Peyton Manning will love his quickness and ability to come out of the backfield.

Questionable move: Trading out of the first round and then taking Cincinnati defensive tackle Derek Wolfe in the second. He will be compared to the other tackles they could have had.

Third-day gem: Cornerback Omar Bolden, taken in the third round, has the ability to be a starter. He missed 2011 with a torn ACL, so there is value here.

Analysis: John Elway and crew had a decent draft, but not a great one. The pick of Brock Oseweiler in the second round probably surprised some people, but they need a long-term answer for when Manning retires. They did get some nice third-day guys.

Grade: C+

Detroit Lions

Best pick: Third-round corner Dwight Bentley has a lot of athletic ability and could push for a spot as a rookie in the three-corner sets. He played well against some good teams in his career.

Questionable move: Taking Oklahoma receiver Ryan Broyles in the second round is a real risk. He is coming off a torn ACL and wasn't a burner before that.

Third-day gem: Fourth-round linebacker Ronnell Lewis was a nice player at Oklahoma. He has some pass-rush skills, but will have to transition to a 4-3 outside linebacker.

Analysis: They landed tackle Riley Reiff in the first round, which is a nice pick. Broyles is a risk, so that drops the grade down some. This wasn't a great draft, but it could be if Broyles returns to his pre-injury form. I like where this team is heading with Martin Mayhew.

Grade: C+

Green Bay Packers

Best pick: Second-round defensive tackle Jerel Worthy should have been a first-round pick. He was a force at times at Michigan State. He will be the same for the Packers.

Questionable move: I don't think the Packers are getting a great player in first-round pick Nick Perry. Some scouts think he's soft. We'll see.

Third-day gem: Terrell Manning, an outside linebacker from North Carolina State, has a chance to stick at a position of need. He has some toughness about him.

Analysis: I didn't like the pick of Perry, but it's hard to argue with Ted Thompson's track record. I love their two second-round picks. They get Worthy first and then land Vanderbilt corner Casey Heyward. Thompson traded up to get both of them when he saw value. He gets it.

Grade: B

Houston Texans

Best pick: Third-round pick Brandon Brooks can play either guard or tackle, two trouble spots for the Texans on the right side. He is a physical, athletic player.

Questionable move: I didn't like the pick of Whitney Mercilus in the first round. I just didn't see the explosive ability from him on tape and he didn't really fill a need.

Third-day gem: I love the pick of Nebraska defensive end Jared Crick in the fourth round. Were it not for an injury last year, he might have gone higher.

Analysis: While I didn't like Mercilus, I did like the rest of their draft. I liked two of their three fourth-round picks, Crick and receiver Keshawn Martin. I just think in the first round they could have gone in a different direction.

Grade: B

Indianapolis Colts

Best pick: Can it be anybody else but Andrew Luck? It wasn't hard to make the decision to take him with the first pick, but it still deserves this spot.

Questionable move: Taking tight end Dwayne Allen in the third round after taking Coby Fleeener in the second was strange. They had so many other needs.

Third-day gem: Fifth-round pick Josh Chapman had knee surgery after the 2011 season, but I think he's a steal here. He's a short, compact tackle who should be in the rotation as a rookie.

Analysis: I really like what first-year general manager Ryan Grigson did, except for the Allen pick, and that has nothing to do with the player but the position. Grigson picked a lot of good football players. I love Fleener and third-round receiver T.Y. Hilton.

Grade: A

Jacksonville Jaguars

Best pick: Moving up for Justin Blackmon was a nice decision. They had to get a big-play receiver.

Questionable move: Did they really draft a punter in the third round? Taking Bryan Anger there was the worst move of this draft -- by any team.

Third-day gem: Fifth-round linebacker Brandon Marshall is a tough player who should make the roster at a thin position. Scouts think he'll be good as a special-teams player.

Analysis: The first two picks of Blackmon and defensive end Andre Branch nailed it. Taking Anger really put a dark cloud over what should have been a really good draft. There is no justification for that pick.

Grade: B-

Kansas City Chiefs

Best pick: Taking running back Cyrus Gray in the sixth round could prove to be one of those late-round gems. Gray was a productive runner at Texas A&M.

Questionable move: Taking Dontari Poe in the first round is a risk. He looks the part, but he didn't play to his athletic skills. He's a boom or bust guy.

Third-day gem: Receiver Devon Wylie, a fourth-round pick, will be a nice slot receiver. He can also help out the return game.

Analysis: The Chiefs filled some needs, starting at nose tackle with Poe. He has to play to his athletic ability or that pick will be a bust. They drafted two offensive linemen after him, which helps fill a need. The draft was just OK.

Grade: C

Miami Dolphins

Best pick: Third-round tight end Michael Egnew has the ability to split out and create matchup problems. He's what you want in a tight end.

Questionable move: Taking Ryan Tannehill with the eighth overall pick is a risk. He has tools, but limited starts. Did they overdraft because of the need at the position?

Third-day gem: Running back Lamar Miller might have some shoulder issues, but he is an explosive runner. The Dolphins might have nailed a special back.

Analysis: The draft will be graded on the Tannehill pick in the long run. If their analysis is accurate, and he's a franchise passer, this will be a really nice draft. If not, well, this regime won't be around long. I liked what they did after Tannehill a lot. But he is this draft.

Grade: B+

Minnesota Vikings

Best pick: I love that they stayed true to what they wanted and picked tackle Matt Kalil and added picks in a trade down to do it. Kalil is a 10-year starter.

Questionable move: Using a fourth-round pick on a fullback isn't wise. They took Southern California's Rhett Ellison to be a lead blocker. That's a waste of a good pick.

Third-day gem: Fourth-round receiver Jairus Wright is a good slot receiver who will help add some quickness to a passing game that needs it.

Analysis: Rick Spielman did a nice job trading back, landing extra picks and still getting Kalil. They then came back into the first round to take a starting safety in Harrison Smith in a year where that position was lean. Good job.

Grade: B+

New England Patriots

Best pick: Some questioned Chandler Jones, the team's first pick. Not me. I think he will develop into a nice pass rusher for a team that needs it.

Questionable move: Drafting safety Tavon Wilson in the second round. Most scouts had him rated down the board. But Bill Belichick has to like his versatility since he has played corner as well.

Third-day gem: They took Nebraska corner Alfonzo Dennard in the seventh round. That's great value. He did have an arrest, but don't the Patriots have a car wash outside their facility to clean off player stink?

Analysis: Belichick usually trades back, but moved up twice to land Jones and Dont'a Hightower. Those picks are solid, even if I didn't like the trade up to get Hightower as their second first-round pick. The pick of Wilson could decide this draft.

Grade: B-

New Orleans Saints

Best pick: Fourth-round receiver Nick Toon was a productive player at Wisconsin. He should be able to compete for a No. 4 job, which is a spot that sees the field for the Saints.

Questionable move: Bounty-gate. That caused them to get stripped of a key second-round pick.

Third-day gem: Guard Andrew Tiller, a sixth-round pick, plays with a nasty streak that fits the Saints' line. They put great emphasis on their guards with a small quarterback.

Analysis: It has been a tough four months for the Saints. This draft didn't do much to help them. They were without a first-round pick because of a bad trade for Mark Ingram last year. They lost their second in the scandal and then used the third on a defensive tackle from Canada. The beat goes on in New Orleans and it isn't a good one.

Grade: F

New York Giants

Best pick: The Giants had a first-round grade on receiver Reuben Randle and still landed him at the end of the second. That's value.

Questionable move: Taking Jayron Hosley in the third round is risky because he tested positive for marijuana at the combine. That's either a sign of stupidity or a problem.

Third-day gem: Fourth-round tackle Brandon Mosley from Auburn is a nice developmental choice. It might take this former defensive player a year or two to be in the mix, but he's worth a look. He is athletic.

Analysis: The Giants took running back David Wilson in the first round to fill a need. His only knock is fumbling. But he should get carries as a rookie. Randle was good value and Hosely could be a hit if he's past his problems.

Grade: B

New York Jets

Best pick: Second-round receiver Stephen Hill has the tools to be an explosive player, but he is raw. Can this regime get the best out of him? If they can, he will be a steal. Boom or bust pick.

Questionable move: Taking Quinton Coples in the first round is a strange move for this team. He doesn't seem to fit what they do. Oh, and he also took last season off at North Carolina.

Third-day gem: Running back Terrance Ganaway put up big numbers in Baylor's offense. He is a big back at 239 pounds.

Analysis: The Jets took two players in the first two rounds who are risks. Is that really something this front office and staff can afford to do? Add in the stupid Tim Tebow trade, and the Jets haven't had a great start to 2012. It's a feast-or-famine draft.

Grade: C-

Oakland Raiders

Best pick: Third-round pick Tony Bergstrom is a tough guy who could play either tackle or guard. He could push right tackle Khalif Barnes.

Questionable move: Losing a third-round pick to take quarterback Terrelle Pryor in last year's supplemental draft. That was a waste.

Third-day gem: Fifth-round receiver Juron Criner was a productive player at Arizona. He should be in the mix for time as a rookie.

Analysis: They didn't pick until the third round because of a pair of trades. The trade for Carson Palmer cost them their first-round pick and their second-round pick went to New England in a trade made in last year's draft. But would they have picked anything more valuable than Palmer with those two picks? Doubtful.

Grade: D (not counting Palmer)

Philadelphia Eagles

Best pick: Second-round linebacker Mychal Kendricks is a run-and-chase linebacker who will fit in perfectly with the Eagles scheme.

Questionable move: Taking Nick Foles in the third round. The Eagles love to take developmental quarterbacks, but Foles has bad feet. He needs a lot of coaching.

Third-day gem: Some considered fourth-round corner Brandon Boykin a potential first-round pick at one point, but a broken leg hurt his stock. They might have a steal here.

Analysis: The Eagles landed three good defensive players with their first three picks, including top pick Fletcher Cox. They had to improve that side of the ball. After that, they picked up some quality players in the latter rounds. It was a good weekend for the Eagles.

Grade: B+

Pittsburgh Steelers

Best pick: They couldn't get the pick there fast enough when Stanford guard David DeCastro fell to them in the first round. He will be a 10-year starter and is a perfect Steelers player.

Questionable move: Taking Ohio State tackle Mike Adams in the second round. He has character concerns, big ones, but the Steelers felt he was worth the risk. We'll see. He's a good player.

Third-day gem: There was some talk that fourth-round pick Ta'amu Alameda could be at least a second-round pick. The Steelers did a great job snagging him as a potential replacement for Casey Hampton in the fourth.

Analysis: Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert proved again over three days why he is one of the NFL's best. Look up and down the Steelers' draft board and you will see productive college players. There is some risk with Adams, but you almost have to trust Colbert on that one.

Grade: A

St. Louis Rams

Best pick: Third-round corner Trumaine Johnson has the ability to be an immediate starter. He just looks the part, even if he played at small-school Montana.

Questionable move: Taking corner Janoris Jenkins in the second round is a risk considering his background. He has talent, but can he stay out of trouble?

Third-day gem: Fifth-round receiver Chris Givens has the speed the Rams' offense needs on the outside.

Analysis: They actually traded down twice in the first round and ended up with a bounty of picks. They used those picks to improve a team that needed it. Their second pick (Brian Quick) and Jenkins are risky.

Grade: B-

San Diego Chargers

Best pick: It was their first one, landing outside linebacker Melvin Ingram in the first round. Ingram is this draft's best pass rusher.

Questionable move: Not taking an offensive lineman with any of their first four picks. They need help there.

Third-day gem: Fourth-round pick Ladarius Green might be a replacement for aging Antonio Gates in couples of years. He is a vertical tight end who can stretch the field. Some scouts think he looks like a receiver.

Analysis: A.J. Smith did a nice job. He stayed put and landed Ingram and then got two other potential starters in the second and third rounds for the defense. Nice job.

Grade: B+

San Francisco 49ers

Best pick: Most draft analysts ripped the pick of A.J. Jenkins in the first round. I liked it. The kid can fly. He just needs a little polish. Just keep him away from the knucklehead receivers on the roster -- and there are plenty.

Questionable move: Why did they take LaMichael James in the second round? Don't they have a glut of backs? Didn't they take Kendall Hunter last year? I like James, just not here.

Third-day gem: Safety Trent Robinson has the range to play free safety. As a sixth-round pick, I think he has chance to make the team and do even more in a year or two.

Analysis: I liked the Jenkins pick to start the draft, but taking James in the second really didn't make a lot of sense. They bounced back with some decent picks after that, but not a great weekend for the 49ers.

Grade: C-

Seattle Seahawks

Best pick: Second-round linebacker Bobby Wagner is an athletic kid who should push for a starting job right away. He is a Pete Carroll-type of LB.

Questionable move: Their first pick, taking defensive end Bruce Irvin. He had some character issues and some scouts think he doesn't play hard enough. He can rush the passer, so the attraction is obvious. Risky.

Third-day gem: Defensive tackle Jaye Howard, their second fourth-round pick, is a good player. He will come in and win a spot in the rotation as a rookie.

Analysis: They made a questionable move at the top with Irvin, bounced back by taking Wagner, but then took Russell Wilson in the third when they just signed Matt Flynn. Why? They did some good things on the final day, but Irvin is the key.

Grade: C+

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Best pick: They landed a future Pro Bowl player in second-round linebacker Lavonte David. They have their next Derrick Brooks.

Questionable move: Trading out of their spot in the first round to pass on Morris Claiborne and take safety Mark Barron. Corner is a much more valuable position than safety.

Third-day gem: Linebacker Najee Goode is a run-thumper from West Virginia who is worth a look in the fifth round. He plays the run well. Has played inside and outside.

Analysis: The Bucs landed three starters with their first three picks in Barron, running back Doug Martin (who I really like) and David. That's a nice bounty. I don't know if Barron is quite the player some think he will be, but Tampa Bay had a big-time need there.

Grade: B

Tennessee Titans

Best pick: Third-round pick Mike Martin is an undersized defensive tackle who is a mauler. He will be a contributor from the get-go. I love guys like him.

Questionable move: Taking Zach Brown in the second round. He has all the tools, but he never played to them. Some say he shies away from contact.

Third-day gem: Safety Markelle Martin from Oklahoma State is a nice late-round pick. He was a productive player in college.

Analysis: I really liked the pick of Kendall Wright in the first round and Martin in the third. Wright will be somebody who can grow with Jake Locker. Other than those two, this draft didn't excite.

Grade: B-

Washington Redskins

Best pick: Robert Griffin III was their first pick, second overall, but they get props for moving up to make the pick.

Questionable move: Why take quarterback Kirk Cousins in the fourth round after taking Robert Griffin III in the first? That's a luxury pick.

Third-day gem: FAU running back Alfred Morris came in the sixth round. Mike Shanahan once drafted Terrell Davis in the sixth round. Morris is smaller than Davis, but has the same type of cutting ability.

Analysis: Getting Griffin was the right thing to do. They have their franchise passer. But they didn't do much after that. They didn't have a second-round pick, but I also don't like what they did with the rest of their picks.

Grade: B-


Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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