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Old 04-26-2009, 06:13 PM   #1
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Default AFC North draft analysis

AFC North draft analysis
http://myespn.go.com/blogs/afcnorth
April 26, 2009 5:56 PM

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

With a significant gap between the four division teams in 2008, the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns attempted to play catch up, while the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens looked to extend their dominance.

Plenty of fresh faces were added to AFC North rosters during the 2009 NFL draft.
The names are well-known: Rey Maualuga, Andre Smith, Michael Oher, Alex Mack, Evander Hood, Brian Robiskie. As with every year, some of these players will blossom and others will flame out.

Here is a breakdown of the best and worst moves in the division:

Best move

Although neither the Steelers nor the Ravens made flashy slections, both of their first-round picks were solid moves in taking defensive tackle Evander Hood and offensive tackle Michael Oher, respectively.

These two AFC North teams realize games are won in the trenches. Despite picking late in the first round, the Ravens and Steelers got solid value picks, which will help them continue to control the line of scrimmage. Not coincidentally, the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns also picked a pair of offensive linemen to try to catch up and win the line of scrimmage. But we will get to those picks later.

Baltimore needed to help second-year quarterback Joe Flacco in some fashion this weekend, and they did by getting added protection. Baltimore traded up three spots to land Oher of Mississippi at No. 23. He has a tremendous story of overcoming hardship and the Ravens like his mental and physical toughness.

If coached up properly, Hood also could develop into a solid starter within a couple years for Pittsburgh. After losing just one starter (cornerback Bryant McFadden) from last year's Super Bowl team, there wasn't much of a chance any pick would start right away, particularly on Pittsburgh's top-rated defense. But Hood is a physically strong player who gives the Steelers depth and options on the defensive line, where all three starters are over the age of 30.

Riskiest move

The Bengals continued their trend of taking risks high in the draft, starting in the first round with Smith.

Without a doubt, the Alabama left tackle was one of the best players in the country during the college season. He has tremendous talent. But a suspension in the bowl game, a poor NFL combine and not-so-great pro day led to questions about his work ethic and decision making. The Bengals will invest a lot of guaranteed money in Smith, which raises even more questions. Add the fact that Virginia left tackle Eugene Monroe, a much safer pick, was still available at No. 6 and that will add a lot of pressure for Cincinnati's selection of Smith to pan out.

Cincinnati also took another player with somewhat similar issues in Georgia Tech defensive end Michael Johnson in the third round. He has tremendous first-day ability, but apparently every NFL team feels he has second-day motivation. Again, it will be up to the coaches to get the best out of Johnson at all times.

This is the ultimate boom or bust draft for the Bengals. They probably drafted more pure, athletic talent than any team in the division, which could turn out to be all that matters. But players like Smith and Johnson will need to be constantly monitored, and there has to be some reason every team passed on USC linebacker Rey Maualuga as well. Perhaps many general managers felt he was overrated, which remains to be seen.

Overall, these draft picks have the potential to either lead to Cincinnati's resurgence or add to its recurring problems.

Most surprising move

It is becoming an annual trend in Pittsburgh: The Steelers once again did not select an offensive lineman on the first day of the NFL draft.

The last time it happened was 2002 with former guard Kendall Simmons. The run of centers went before Pittsburgh's No. 32 pick in the first round as Mack (No. 21) and Louisville's Eric Wood (No. 28 to Buffalo Bills) were off the board. Pittsburgh felt center Max Unger and offensive tackle Eben Britton didn't fit in the first round and passed on several more offensive line prospects in the second round, where it traded out of the pick.

Pittsburgh's struggles with running the ball and protecting the passer last year were well documented. The Steelers finally took Wisconsin guard Kraig Urbik with one of their three third-round picks.

File it away

Under new coach Eric Mangini and first-year general manager George Kokinis, the Browns did a lot of wheeling and dealing in their first draft together. With a focus on depth they made an NFL-high three trades in the first round before landing University of California center Alex Mack.

The Browns got three players and the Jets' first- and second-rounders for Cleveland's No. 5 overall pick, which turned out to be USC quarterback Mark Sanchez. The Browns continued their trading ways by picking up two six-round picks to move to No. 19 and again to No. 21, where they eventually took Mack.

This 2009 draft could eventually be judged by the way its trades led to two potential franchise quarterbacks. The Browns gave up the No. 5 overall pick, which turned out to be Sanchez, and the No. 17 pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which turned out to be quarterback Josh Freeman.

If quarterbacks Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson don't pan out in Cleveland, and Sanchez and/or Freeman are future NFL stars, expect many Clevelanders to utilize revisionist history down the road.

Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, NFL draft 09, AFC North, New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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Old 04-26-2009, 06:51 PM   #2
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Default Re: AFC North draft analysis

I can't argue with too much of that. Both the Steelers and the Ravens do tend to draft prospects that will "win games in the trenches." Which is why, over the past decade, they have both been more succesful on a year-to-year basis than either Cincinnati or Cleveland.

Baltimore's two biggest draft weaknesses have always been QB's and WR's. Hopefully last year was the end of their QB draft jinx. No WR drafted this go-around, although the Ravens did select a TE in the 5th round. Maybe a trade is in the works.
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Old 04-26-2009, 07:02 PM   #3
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Default Re: AFC North draft analysis

Just because I love Hines Ward's big play ability and his hitting. I think that the Rey Maualuga pick offers Hines another Cincinnati linebacker that he can properly welcome to the NFL by breaking a bone in his body. Just to put that out there.
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Old 04-26-2009, 07:56 PM   #4
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Default Re: AFC North draft analysis

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Originally Posted by 55BaileyFan View Post
Just because I love Hines Ward's big play ability and his hitting. I think that the Rey Maualuga pick offers Hines another Cincinnati linebacker that he can properly welcome to the NFL by breaking a bone in his body. Just to put that out there.
Sadly that will probably get him a 15 yard penalty now.
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Old 04-26-2009, 10:53 PM   #5
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Default Re: AFC North draft analysis

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Originally Posted by 55BaileyFan View Post
Just because I love Hines Ward's big play ability and his hitting. I think that the Rey Maualuga pick offers Hines another Cincinnati linebacker that he can properly welcome to the NFL by breaking a bone in his body. Just to put that out there.

I do not want Ward out there to purposley hurt anybody.
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Old 04-26-2009, 10:59 PM   #6
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Default Re: AFC North draft analysis

Ravens -- They are getting as old as the Steelers but lack the big-play ability depth-wise. Free agency also hit them a bit hard. Still a threat, but I don't think to the level of 2nd round of playoffs.

Bengals -- Lost TJ Whozy. CJ is a drama queen. Coaching staff sucks.

Browns -- Seriously? It's the Browns.

Looks like another AFC North Championship and possible SB appearance / win!

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Old 04-26-2009, 11:01 PM   #7
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Default Re: AFC North draft analysis

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I do not want Ward out there to purposley hurt anybody.
Me neither. But if the Bungels have their head down and are looking to put a lickin' on one of our guys, I hope Ward vaporizes them all.
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Old 04-26-2009, 11:02 PM   #8
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Default Re: AFC North draft analysis

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Originally Posted by Crow-Magnon View Post
I can't argue with too much of that. Both the Steelers and the Ravens do tend to draft prospects that will "win games in the trenches." Which is why, over the past decade, they have both been more succesful on a year-to-year basis than either Cincinnati or Cleveland.

Baltimore's two biggest draft weaknesses have always been QB's and WR's. Hopefully last year was the end of their QB draft jinx. No WR drafted this go-around, although the Ravens did select a TE in the 5th round. Maybe a trade is in the works.
I'm not sure that I would be sold on Flacco if I was a Ravens fan. It would have to take a year or two more to make an accurate decision.
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Old 04-27-2009, 08:25 AM   #9
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Default Re: AFC North draft analysis

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Originally Posted by Rek View Post
I'm not sure that I would be sold on Flacco if I was a Ravens fan. It would have to take a year or two more to make an accurate decision.
How can I argue that? Look at how many Steeler fans were talking about whether Big Ben was good enough to win it all last year? But Flacco has definitely shown promise, especially when he basically had one go-to WR last year (Mason) until Clayton started to come around. All I know is that compared to most Ravens QB's of the past, Flacco shows a lot of promise, especially with that cannon of an arm.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rek
Ravens -- They are getting as old as the Steelers but lack the big-play ability depth-wise. Free agency also hit them a bit hard. Still a threat, but I don't think to the level of 2nd round of playoffs.
My hope is that with getting Oher in the draft, Birk in a trade and getting Yanda back from IR, the OL will be young, big and strong enough to protect Flacco without relying on a lot of blocking by Heap, L.J. Smith or Sypniewski. The play from TE was absent most of last year, which is a big change from years past when Ravens TE's were the most active receivers.

But with no WR's taken in the draft, I have a feeling a trade is in the works. I've heard a lot of chatter about a trade for Bouldin from the Cards, but I don't think that's going to happen. But I'm betting Ozzie is going to work out a deal for a WR with 3-4 years of experience.
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Old 04-27-2009, 08:49 AM   #10
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Default Re: AFC North draft analysis

if you REALLY think about it. I mean really hard.

The steelers will be adding THIS list of players to the team that are either rookies, or barely played last year:

Sweed
Mendenhall
Mundy
Sepulveda
B. Davis
L.Timmons (even though his role was more than any of those combined, he still hasn't done what we all expect him to do)

Plus 9 draft picks. Two interior line players ... Two DE's... Two CB's ... and a burner at WR. And a tightend that can actually block unlike speath.

I call it a success on every level. the team won the superbowl without any of that talent last year ... not to mention losing two starters on the line for practically the whole season each (smith and simmons)

This is a very, very good team. With at least 10+ players added to the mix this year and last that have more than legit shots at making the opening day roster.

I think this is the last year for Fernando bryant ... carey davis ... Stapleton should eventually be replaced.


The only thing that disappoints me is that we didn't find anyone to replace W. Colon. But the time and place for taking an OT just wasn't in the cards yesterday, EX: I was high on Jammon (sp?) meredith from SC.

He was in kipers top ten available for about 3 rounds. Steelers had ample chanced to take him but obviously they know the board wayyyyy better than us.

Every guy we got is basically a 4 year starter. with no durability OR character issues. Tough, hard working, steelers players. I love it.

This is going to be a good team for years to come.

Last edited by fansince'76; 04-27-2009 at 09:09 AM. Reason: Please, no F-bombs.
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