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Pittsburgh Steelers & AFC North Draft Grades

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Is handing out 'grades' for the 2010 NFL Draft one day removed from its completion a bit ridiculous? Sure is, but that's what the masses are searching for out there, so let's ignore the fact that we won't really know how to assess this year's draft haul for the Pittsburgh Steelers and their primary competitors in the AFC North until several years from now and get to it anyway.  To reiterate, the grades are there 'just because.' I tried to sprinkle in some analysis about all the teams' draft classes, but really all evaluation at this point is as subjective as it comes. 

Pittsburgh Steelers

Total Picks: 10 

Best pick: There's a number of very intriguing players in the Steelers lot of draft picks, but I think only one of them can be classified as a safe bet to be both an important contributor in 2010 and a mainstay on the depth chart for years to come. To me that guy is center Maurkice Pouncey, who could start at guard as a rookie before being moved back to center in 2011 or 2012. 

Best 2nd day pick: Who knows, maybe the Steelers could have found a way to get Virginia Tech DE/OLB Jason Worilds a bit later in the draft, but clearly they had him pegged as a guy that fit the mold of what they wanted to do defensively and on special teams. I really like this kid's competitive makeup - seems to love football, tough as nails, versatile in how he can be deployed, and young enough that it's reasonable to think he still has plenty of room to grow physically and in terms of his football IQ.

Best 3rd day pick: There's a number of guys that were drafted on Sunday that I feel can make this roster, but nobody has the potential to have as big an impact in 2010 as Georgia Tech RB Jonathan Dwyer. So he didn't run well at the Combine - big deal. There's a million reasons why that might have been the case. I'd like to take a closer look at Dwyer's career at GA Tech in the near future, but for now I'll just share my number one reason why I love this pick: Dwyer now has a me against the world mentality because of how far he fell in the draft. That's a good thing for a running back that really just needs to concentrate on getting his body ready for the NFL grind and running fearlessly when he gets opportunities.  

'Swing pick' (the pick that's hard to assess now but could be key towards determining how the draft is viewed several years from now): Tough choice for me here. I think the Steelers may have found themselves a keeper in Thaddeus Gibson, their 4th round pick out of Ohio State. I also think his collegiate teammate Doug Worthington may develop into a rock solid, if not spectacular, cog in the Steelers defensive line once guys like Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel more noticeably succumb to the effects of aging.  One of the knocks on Gibson is his tendency to not play as hard as he's capable of on every single play. That's certainly not a good thing, but something tells me that once he sees that he's competing against beasts like James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley for playing time, not to mention Jason Worilds who has a relentless motor, he'll go at 110% 100% of the time. 

Overall Analysis and Grade: I'd hate to do any sort of overview of the Steelers 2010 NFL Draft without mentioning how much I like their 5th round pick Stevenson Sylvester. It's hard to say how he might find the field in 2010 unless there were at least one injury to one of the quartet of regulars, but I just like this kid's game. Quick and capable in the passing game (think staying with Ray Rice on a swing pass), supremely competitive and self-confident, and a plenty-sure tackler. Who knows though, circumstances may be such that he doesn't get much of a chance to show off his stuff in Pittsburgh. I hope that's not the case, but it certainly wouldn't be the first time it's ever happened in Pittsburgh or elsewhere. I think that one of the most interesting picks of the draft was Tennessee OT Chris Scott in the 5th round. If he looks like he can play, the Steelers will have a lot more financial flexibility for 2011 and beyond as a result of them being able to let Willie Colon walk in free agency. 

Bottom line is the Steelers finally got a legit talent along the OL in the 1st round, a RB with loads of upside and promise in the 6th round, and a whole bunch of gamers on defense. Every last one of them won't pan out most likely, but several will simply because almost all of them are the types of competitors that won't allow themselves to fail. Throw in the fact that the Steelers addressed their needs in the secondary by re-acquiring Bryant McFadden from the Arizona Cardinals and I think fans have to be thrilled with the roster compared to how it looked just a few short days ago.

Grade: B+


Cleveland Browns

Total Picks: 8 (review CLE's complete draft here

Best pick: Florida CB Joe Haden may not have been the 'best player available' when the Browns were up at #7 in the 1st Round, but he's certainly a special talent on the outside at cornerback. More importantly, he fills a huge need in Cleveland. The Browns finished the 2009 season 29th on defense in passing yards allowed, and that number may have been even worse had they not been equally bad against the run, not to mention trailing in so many games. Haden should be ready to start from Day 1.  

Best 2nd day pick: Tennessee RB Montario Hardesty should be a welcome addition to the Cleveland backfield. Jamal Lewis finally has called it a career, meaning Jerome Harrison had been in need of a running mate to help shoulder the load. Hardesty is very much like Lewis in the way he runs - hard and physical, with underrated agility, footwork and cut-back skills. I'd guess that Hardesty gets over 200 carries and surpasses the 800-850 yard plateau in his rookie year. 

Best 3rd day pick: The Browns are going to need the WRs they drafted in 2009 to step up in their second years (Mohamed Massaquoi, Brian Robiskie), but the addition of Carlton Mitchell out of South Florida should help give Jake Delhomme another much needed option in the vertical passing game. Something tells me Delhomme might like him as a deep threat as early as this coming year.

'Swing pick': Obviously the biggest name of the draft for the Browns was Texas QB Colt McCoy, who slipped all the way to the 3rd Round before finally being nabbed by the Browns. It didn't take long for new team President Mike Holmgren to come out and state that McCoy almost certainly won't be playing in 2010. We'll see about that. I personally think Jake Delhomme is going to do just fine with this new change of scenery, but I'm not at all confident saying that he'll be able to withstand the physical AFC North for an entire season. If he were to go down early and Seneca Wallace performed how he usually has - decently but not quite good enough to win consistently - then who knows, McCoy could find himself playing late in the season if the Browns were out of contention. Regardless of what transpires this year though, the Browns are hoping that McCoy can develop into their QB of the future within a few years time. I think he's being a bit underestimated due to his lack of jaw-dropping physical attributes, but he's a lot quicker and tougher than people realize. He's also quite accurate in the type of passing game that Mike Holmgren liked to run in Seattle. And finally, he's extremely experienced having started four seasons at UT. He's played in big games against the best and delivered time and time again. Life will be much tougher for him at the NFL level, but in the right system, I think McCoy is most definitely somebody you can build your team around for a 5-7 year stretch.

Overall Analysis and Grade: It's not going to be a one-year reclamation project for Mike Holmgren along Lake Erie, but I think both and Browns fans have to feel good about what they accomplished this weekend. The secondary was improved with the additions of Haden and safetys T.J. Ward (2nd round) and Larry Asante (5th round); a workhorse RB was acquired, and Shawn Lauvo, an OT from Arizona State gives the Browns some immediate depth along the line and a potential long-term solution at RT opposite of Joe Thomas at LT. The one area the Browns didn't really address was talent along the defensive line. I suppose the secondary was deemed more important, but next year I imagine they'll need to add some disruptive forces in the trenches. If not, no amount of talent in the secondary will be able to survive in today's pass-friendly NFL.

Grade: B+


Cincinnati Bengals

Total picks: 9 (view CIN's complete draft here)

Best pick: The sky's the limit for 1st round draft pick Jermaine Gresham, the immensely talented TE out of Oklahoma. But I think he's far more likely to underperform than is their 3rd round pick, Jordan Shipley. The former UT standout is not only going to be a favorite of Carson Palmer's, he's also going to be a special teams ace for the Bengals. Great pickup. 

Best 2nd day pick: Most definitely Jordan Shipley, though CB Brandon Ghee (3rd round) and DT Geno Atkins provide solid depth on a defense that's suddenly looking quite scary. 

Best 3rd day pick: Never heard of him for obvious reasons, but OG Otis Hudson is apparently a nice find in the 5th round by Cincinnati. 

Swing pick: The Bengals draft could hinge on how DE Carlos Dunlap adjusts to life at the professional level - both on and off the field. Can he stay out of trouble first of all? Even if so, can he play harder more consistently than he did in college, where he was able to more easily rely on his ridiculous athletic gifts? If he materializes into a monster then the Bengals may look back at this draft as one of the franchise's best ever. 

Overall Analysis and Grade: A really solid draft for the Bengals if you ask me. What's gotten into the water there? That's two years in a row they've done nicely. The Bengals will need to cross their fingers that TE Jermaine Gresham stays healthy and interested in tapping his immense talent. But if he does, their offense should be quite a bit better than it has been the past few years. Throw in Jordan Shipley plus some depth along the OL and the Bengals have every reason to be optimistic that their offense will match the play of their budding defense. 

Grade: B+

Baltimore Ravens

Total picks: 7 (review BAL's complete draft here)

Best pick:  The safe bet here is Sergio Kindle, if he can stay healthy. 

Best 2nd day pick: Sergio Kindle fell to the 2nd round for 'character' concerns and worries about his injury history, but without trying to start a debate about character, I'll just say that I'm familiar enough with the UT program and Kindle to know that these concerns are not all that founded. Yes, a DUI is a red flag, no two ways about it. But kids make mistakes all the time, and we're not exactly talking about a gun charge or repeated behavioral problems. Want to talk character? How about the character Kindle has shown getting his body to where it is after entering college as a wiry and fairly skinny kid. Anyway, color me scared of what Kindle may do against our offensive tackles. 

Best 3rd day pick: Take your pick. There's quite a few that could turn out to be steals for the Ravens. There's David Reed, a WR from Utah that will benefit from Derrick Mason's tutelage; there's a high risk vs. reward selection in the 5th round, DT Art Jones from Syracuse; and there's 4th round pick Dennis Pita, a TE from BYU that will probably find a place on the Ravens' roster in 2010. Hard to say really, as I think all bring something different but important to the table for Baltimore over the course of the next few seasons. 

Swing pick: This year's draft for the Ravens should be closely tied to Terrence Cody's future. If the massive DT out of Alabama materializes into an unmovable force in the middle of Baltimore's defense, then this draft will go a long way towards making Baltimore's defense scary good once more in the middle part of this decade (I wouldn't classify it as that last year or heading into this year). 

Overall analysis and grade: The Ravens have to feel pretty darn good about their draft haul considering they didn't even pick in the 1st round. Every one of their picks, even 7th round OT Ramon Harewood, has a change to be real good. Not just squeak by and make the roster good. Pains me to say it, but a job well done by Ozzie Newsom and company. 

Grade: A