2011 NFL Draft Results: Team Grades for the AFC North
The teams in the AFC North all did a solid job in the 2011 NFL Draft in my opinion.
The Steelers and Browns both got quality players who fill big team needs and improved in the trenches, which is where championships are won.
The Ravens and Bengals both did an exceptional job filling the holes in their rosters. I loved the Ravens' first two picks, as both Jimmy and Torrey Smith will have big impacts next season. The Bengals did an incredible of job of building for the future, as they got their franchise quarterback and wide receiver in the first two rounds.
Here is my analysis of each and every pick made by the franchises in the AFC North, along with overall grades for all four teams.
1. (27) CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado: This was another excellent first-round pick by Ozzie Newsome. Smith has top-15 talent, so if he can mature a little bit, he will be a steal at the 27th pick. He should become a starter right away in his rookie season.
2. (58) WR Torrey Smith, Maryland: I absolutely love this pick. Smith has No. 1 receiver ability, and I feel he has been vastly underrated. Smith can be a very nice compliment to Anquan Boldin for the future.
3. (85) OT Jah Reid, Central Florida: The Ravens needed a right tackle, but I’m not a fan of Reid this high. I know I’m lower on him than most people, but I see this as a huge reach.
4. (123) WR Tandon Doss, Indiana: Doss is nice value pick here, as he was rated as a third-round draft pick. He provides good depth at receiver, which now could be one of the teams’ deepest positions.
5. (164) CB Chykie Brown, Texas: Brown is a nice pick here, and he will add to the depth at cornerback. He will be a solid backup in Baltimore.
5. (165) DE Pernell McPhee, Mississippi St.: McPhee will add depth on the defensive line, but I think he needs some work before he has an impact on the defense.
6. (180) QB Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech: Taylor is a quarterback who could develop into a solid backup for Joe Flacco.
7. (225) RB Anthony Allen, Georgia Tech: Allen is another depth pick, who will contribute mostly on special teams his rookie season.
Final Team Grade: B+
I am a big fan of the Ravens' first two picks, as they got a potential No. 1 cornerback and No. 1 wide receiver. I am surprised that they took two wide receivers and two cornerbacks with four of their first five picks. They had some other needs that they could’ve filled, but they at least got good players. They ended up with a few players who will add instant depth at multiple positions in the later rounds.
1. (4) WR A.J. Green, Georgia: This is a great pick here, as the Bengals get arguably the most talented player in this year’s draft. Green also fills the team’s biggest need, as they will need a new No. 1 receiver since Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco are unlikely to return.
2. (35) QB Andy Dalton, TCU: Another great selection for the Bengals, as Dalton will likely be the long-term franchise quarterback. He is an excellent player who should become a solid starting quarterback, and this likely means the end to the Carson Palmer era in Cincinnati.
3. (66) OLB Dontay Moch, Nevada: Wow, the Bengals continue their string of good draft picks here with Moch. He should challenge for a starting spot right away, and he’ll form a nice linebacker trio with Rey Maulaga and Keith Rivers.
4. (101) OG Clint Boling, Georgia: I think this is a solid pick here. Boling was an experienced starter in the SEC, so he could also compete for a starting spot next season.
5. (134) S Robert Sands, West Virginia: I think this is decent value for Sands here, but I don’t really get why Cincinnati took him. He is very similar to Roy Williams, but this might mean Williams won’t be back.
6. (167) WR Ryan Whalen, Stanford: Whalen will give the Bengals depth at wide receiver, but he’ll likely only see time on special teams next season.
7. (207) CB Korey Lindsey, Southern Illinois: Lindsey won’t provide much on defense, but he could make the team for special teams.
7. (246) RB Jay Finley, Baylor: This pick was made toward improving depth at running back, but there were more talented backs available.
Final Team Grade: B+
I wasn’t overly impressed with the Bengals' late-round selections, but they hit a home run with their first few picks.
The combination of Dalton to Green will be a popular one in Cincinnati for years to come. Dontay Moch will make a nice starting linebacker, and even fourth-round pick Clint Boling could compete for a starting spot next season.
1. (21) DT Phil Taylor, Baylor: Taylor is a very solid pick here, as the Browns got the best nose tackle in the draft. He will fill a big hole (literally) that Shaun Rogers filled for the past few seasons.
2. (37) DE Jabaal Sheard, Pittsburgh: Sheard fills the Browns' big need for a pass-rusher. I think he is an underrated player, and he should start from day one next season.
2. (59) WR Greg Little, North Carolina: I’m a huge fan of this pick because Little has No. 1 receiver potential. He will be a favorite target of Colt McCoy for years to come.
4. (102) TE Jordan Cameron, USC: Cameron will be groomed behind Ben Watson for the future. I’m not a fan of this pick, as there were other more talented tight ends available here.
4. (124) FB/LB Owen Marecic, Stanford: You have to love the type of player Marecic is. He will likely be a bruising fullback for the Browns, and I like the combination of him and Peyton Hillis in the backfield.
5. (137) CB Buster Skrine, Chattanooga: I think they should’ve taken a corner earlier than this, but I like Skrine. He is a developmental player though and won’t likely make much of an impact next season.
5. (150) OT Jason Pinkston, Pittsburgh: Pinkston is a solid value pick here, and I think it’s possible he could compete for a starting spot next season at right tackle.
7. (248) S Eric Hagg, Nebraska: Hagg could be a solid backup for the Browns next season, and he will be an asset on special teams.
Final Team Grade: B
I was very impressed with what the Browns did with their first three picks.
Taylor and Sheard will both likely start and improve the defensive line. Little could also be a big contributor next season, although I don’t know if he’ll be the No. 1 wide receiver.
Marecic and Pinkston are also very nice picks, as they both could challenge for starting spots next season as well.
1. (31) DE Cameron Heyward, Ohio State: A great selection for the Steelers, as he provides great depth along the defensive line. Heyward will form an excellent starting duo with Ziggy Hood at defensive end in the near future.
2. (63) OT Marcus Gilbert, Florida: This fills a pretty big need for the Steelers, but personally I think it’s a reach for Gilbert. He could turn into a nice player, but I don’t think he’s ready for a starting position.
3. (95) CB Curtis Brown, Texas: Very nice value here, as I had Brown rated as a second-round prospect. He will challenge for a starting spot next year opposite Ike Taylor.
4. (128) CB Cortez Allen, Citadel: Allen will give the Steelers nice depth at corner, which they really need. I do think there were more talented corners available here, but he’s still a nice selection.
5. (162) OLB Chris Carter, Fresno State: Carter is a solid pickup here, but I don’t think this was their biggest need at this point.
6. (196) OT Keith Williams, Nebraska: Another depth pick for the offensive line, but I think they would’ve been better off with Lee Ziemba here.
7. (232) RB Baron Batch, Texas Tech: Batch will be lucky to make the roster, and there were many more talented players available here.
Final Team Grade: B-
The Steelers got some solid players here, filling a majority of their needs as well.
Heyward will be a big contributor, and Curtis Brown could end up starting as early as next season. I’m not sold on picking Gilbert or Allen, but I think they give the Steelers solid depth at the very least.
This was another solid draft by Pittsburgh.